Iraq: Give a Woman a Sheep ...
by Hugh Pilcher
The Salvation Army’s international personnel may have left Iraq some time ago, but the projects – supervised by a team of Iraqis – continue to go from strength to strength, touching the lives of hundreds of the country’s most needy people.
|The assistant project officer presents a widow with her sheep|
|A widow signs the project agreement using her thumbprint|
|The project officer helps widows select their sheep|
|The project officer talks to some of the project participants outside a training centre set up in one of the villages|
|A typical house in southern Iraq|
|Project officers take a training session|
The Two By Two sheep loan project for woman-headed households, funded through The Salvation Army’s United Kingdom Territory, started in February 2005 in one of the governorates of southern Iraq. During the project’s first three months 50 needy families were trained in sheep breeding and each received one sheep with one ewe lamb.
Although the project is chiefly aimed at poor rural widowed women with children, seven of the 50 families have a father or husband alive. In these cases the men are not able to work due to age or disability and so, even in these families, the head women were trained.
In a neighbouring governorate another 50 woman-headed families have already been selected for the second phase of the project.
Women household heads were targeted because they face the greatest difficulties in trying to earn enough money to support their families.
The project got under way with the engineer, the agricultural officer, along with others from the team, looking around the area to find suitable villages from which to choose the first group of woman-headed households.
In March, in consultation with The Salvation Army’s coordinator in Iraq, 10 villages were identified where five woman-headed families in each would be suitable beneficiaries for the project.
The beneficiaries were chosen in consultation with the village leaders, the village members, the local council and Governorate Agricultural Directorate and Ministry of Displacement Migration representatives. Throughout the whole process, the team has gone to great lengths to ensure local community leaders were involved at the very heart of the decision-making process. The intention is to provide what the people truly need.
Because of these close ties with local leaders, seven families where the father is still alive
but disabled or very old were included as they were particularly in need and would benefit from the project.
The selection procedure tried to ensure that there would be no problems with arguments or jealousy over who the beneficiaries were. The heads of these families were taught about the purpose of the project.
Each family head signed documentation to ensure they would correctly follow the rules of the project. Village leaders also signed to show that they would fully back the running of the project and one person in each village was identified to have some responsibility for all the beneficiaries there.
There is an ongoing security risk while travelling around. The dangers come from attack from insurgents, roadside improvised explosives, aggrieved neighbouring villages, tribal fighting and a general high level of crime. Our staff faces this daily in their work.
During the second half of March, training courses were started in some of the 10 villages. The five-day training programme covered the basics of sheep-rearing – feeding, health, building pens and how to successfully breed sheep – as well as basic administrative and bookkeeping skills.
During the time of the training each beneficiary family received one adult sheep with a suckling ewe lamb. Each family also received 25 kilos of barley feed for the sheep and fencing and posts for a sheep pen. The pens were installed at the time of sheep delivery.
The training continued throughout April. The team also encouraged the women family heads to train other women in their villages. This was agreed with the village leaders in attendance.
Again, this follows the ideals of a good development project. The people who benefit from the original training can pass their new-found expertise on to their contemporaries, so a project of a few months can have long-lasting and growing effects.
The progress of the sheep and management of them has been closely monitored. Supervisors from each village have also been reporting back and, so far, the project is progressing as well as could possibly be hoped. No health problems with the sheep have so far been reported.
The first ewe lambs from the 50 beneficiary families will shortly be taken and no problems are foreseen. All the beneficiaries have signed, by finger or thumb print, an agreement stating that they will give the ewe lamb back to the project management. In this way, the project can continue and, in time, will even begin to fund itself.
The Two By Two project is working miracles in the lives of some of Iraq’s poorest people. Judging by the surprise and joy expressed by the widows at being selected for assistance and the fact that they were given training by Iraqi professionals, it’s obvious that it’s not just the women’s earning ability that’s been boosted.
The whole programme has boosted their self-esteem and given them an awareness of their importance as members of their community. These are benefits that go way beyond the simple gift of sheep.
Article compiled from a report by Salvation Army emergency relief worker Hugh Pilcher