Growing Something New: Strawberries for Sinjar

August 24, 2022 • Iraq
Suliman (left) and a Samaritan’s Purse staff member gratefully survey some of the newly harvested strawberries.

In Iraq, Samaritan’s Purse is helping a Yazidi farmer bring hope to his persecuted region with a colorful crop.

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Though he comes from generations of farmers who traditionally plant the same things over and over, Suliman*, recently decided to try something new. Instead of only planting wheat and barley, the 35-year-old branched out and planted strawberries. This crop was not only a first for him, but for his entire village. Strawberries had only been planted in a few other areas of Sinjar before Samaritan’s Purse supplied Suliman with the seedlings. Today, he is delighting customers as the fruit sells well in the market.

Suliman’s strawberry field is a first in his village in Iraq.

Suliman has extra reason to be grateful for this help. Eight years ago, ISIS brutally disrupted his idyllic farming life when they invaded Sinjar province and forced him to leave his 15 acres of land. He and his family fled for their lives and ended up in another area of Iraq where they spent five years in meager displacement camps. When peace finally returned to his homeland, he was one of the first to return and begin farming again. This was a difficult prospect, however, since ISIS had damaged his land and partly destroyed his home. In addition, the agricultural markets suffered while rain was sparse for three years straight.

Samaritan’s Purse quite literally extended an olive branch to Suliman and his family as they worked to rebuild their lives in their war-torn land. Last year, we gave him a half-acre, fenced-in orchard containing 100 olive and fig tree saplings. The gift came with only one request—that Suliman plant other crops between the rows of trees. This year, Suliman chose to diversify with potatoes, onions, and strawberries between the rows, thanks to a seed kit from Samaritan’s Purse.

In its first year, the small plot of land brought a bumper yield: 220 pounds of potatoes turned into 1,300; the onions multiplied seven times over; and he was able to harvest 220 pounds of strawberries.

“They are very easy to sell in the market,” said Suliman of his strawberry crop, “but the problem is that when I come out to the field, I see my children eating all the big ones!”

“The problem is that when I come out to the field, I see my children eating all the big ones!”

Not only are his children sampling the fruit as it grows, but his neighbors also often come over to “check on” his berries. It’s given him a new reputation in the area. On the street, you often hear people saying, “Suliman, he is the one that is planting strawberries!”

He is particularly grateful for the success of this crop since his three acres of wheat and 10 acres of barley yielded poorly this year, showing little evidence of his hard work of planting and tending the fields. To salvage something from the barley crop, he was forced to turn it into grazing land for his animals.

To avoid repeating some of this year’s losses, Suliman plans to plant strawberries again next spring. Even the likely potential for hot and dry weather will not deter him. He said that if the success of this year was anything to go by, it would definitely be worth the risk.

Suliman is just one of more than 300 farmers Samaritan’s Purse has helped through its agroforestry program in Sinjar, Iraq, since 2021. Our staff consistently encourages these farmers to practice diversification in their planting, but even this does not guarantee a successful harvest. Please pray for these Iraqi families to experience God’s favor in their growing seasons as they strive to rebuild after they have been through so much.

*Name changed for security

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Northern Iraq
Northern Iraq Projects Samaritan's Purse continues to help meet the long-term physical and spiritual needs of those displaced by ISIS. Among our projects, we are offering a variety of livelihoods programs to assist the Yazidi people, and we have set up child-friendly spaces for boys and girls to learn and grow while staying in camps as well. We are also facilitating the return of Christian families to their homes and churches in the Plains of Nineveh. They need our help to repair damage, replace doors, windows, and fixtures, and paint over ISIS graffiti as they reclaim their towns in the Name of Jesus.

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