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Livelihoods: Rahman's* Story


Small grants and practical business training helped farmers in Al-Mahalabiyah like Rahman to rebuild their lives after the war in Iraq.


30 September 2022, Gina Meutia and Munir Mahmood


*Name has been changed and some details omitted for protection reasons


The years of occupation of the Islamic State – also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh, and the escalation of conflict in Iraq have left thousands of farmers, herders and shepherds displaced and in dire need of support, forcing families into poverty and exile from their areas of origin. The years of conflict threatened farmers’ livelihoods, resulting in land seized and crops destroyed during the conflict, with many farmers and cattle herders forced to flee from their homes.

“Before ISIS entered our village, I had been able to accumulate more than a hundred of sheep. These sheep were the only source of livelihood for my family and I.”


Like many of his neighbours, Rahman and his family had to escape Al-Mahalabiyah due to the increased insecurity, following ISIS occupation.


“We thought that we would only need to leave our home and sheep for a few days, but in the end we were not able to return for three years. As a result, we lost all our sheep and with these, our entire livelihood source disappeared. With no source of income, I had to force my five children to drop-out from school. Since then, our situation has continued to get worse, until I finally joined this project.”


The livelihood support interventions being offered through the Supporting Livelihoods and Economic Reintegration in the Return Communities project started at the time that families are eager to rebuild their lives. The project started in June 2021 and was completed in August 2022. It was implemented by UNDP through partnership with HRF and funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), provided through KFW Development Bank.


The project provides support on community-based initiatives and awareness raising sessions, as well as vocational training and enterprise support packages for new and existing businesses. Approximately 2,600 vulnerable returnees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) benefited from a range of livelihood-enhancing activities, including business skills training and grants of up to USD 3,500 per person. From engagement between returnee/IDP households with the host community households, the interventions promoted social cohesion amongst the targeted communities.


“My business plan was selected and I was able to receive a business grant from my participation in this project to restart cattle farming again. Initially, I have been able to purchase 25 sheep with the grant” When asked what other aspects of the project had helped him to restart, Rahman stated, “I took part in a series of business training sessions which focuses on how to manage and market the sheep milk. With the initial profit coming in from selling the milk, I was able to diversify the income source for my family by purchasing a sewing machine for my wife to start offering sewing services in the neighbourhood.”


Rahman now plans to continue to breed his sheep to increase his flock,

“The price of sheep has gone up after the war, so I will focus on breeding more sheep in the next few months. I’ve now managed to increase my sheep to 27. I’ve also recruited someone to help in managing the milk shop, to ensure that I can focus on managing the cattle.”


Before we ended our talk, Rahman expressed,

“The difficulties I had to go through these past few years forced me to persevere and remain resilient; to never lose hope. I would like to thank HRF for giving me a lifeline to help me to rebuild my life and provide for my family again.”


For over 30 years, HRF has continued to help deliver assistance to millions of people across Iraq, including returnees/IDPs who are struggling to cope with the effects of conflict. HRF has cultivated varied networks with communities across Iraq through its project work. The Supporting Livelihoods and Economic Reintegration in the Return Communities project is one of a few parallel projects being implemented by UNDP through partnership with HRF.


UNDP is the leading United Nations organisation fighting to end the injustice of poverty, inequality, and climate change. Working with our broad network of experts and partners in 170 countries, we help nations to build integrated, lasting solutions for people and the planet. Learn more at or follow at @UNDP.


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