Preserving agricultural heritage
Al-Sayafia farmers resist Baghdad’s tide of urbanization
BAGHDAD – In the heart of Al-Sayafia, located just south of Baghdad, a steadfast community of farmers is taking a stand against the tide of urbanization.
These cultivators, deeply rooted in their land, are facing off against property developers eager to transform their fertile fields into residential zones.
Despite receiving lucrative offers, these farmers remain committed to their heritage, cultivating a diverse range of crops that thrive thanks to the nearby Tigris River. Among their prized produce is the uniquely flavorful Iraqi pepper, a testament to the rich agricultural tradition of the area.
The community’s resolve is aptly demonstrated by their rejection of developers’ offers, which have reached up to 1.6b Iraqi dinars ($1,072,000) per acre for their land.
Emerging as a key agricultural zone adjacent to Al-Mada’in, Al-Sayafia has seen a significant uptick in its agricultural output. The use of greenhouses has revolutionized farming in the region, allowing for the year-round production of vegetables like peppers, cucumbers, and eggplants.
These vegetables not only sustain the local community but also supply markets throughout Baghdad and beyond, demonstrating the vital role of local agriculture in the national economy.
Salam Hussein Al-Jubouri, a farmer from Al-Sayafia, highlights the edge that local produce has over imports. He told 964media about the freshness and distinct taste of local crops, attributes that have garnered them a preferred spot on Iraqi dining tables. He also hailed the government’s recent import ban on goods available locally.
“Al-Sayafia’s agricultural identity is centuries old, upheld even through times of severe hardship,” Al-Jubouri adds.
Abu Mushtaq Al-Jubouri, another voice from Al-Sayafia, speaks to the sustainable practices that ensure profitability and resilience. The strategic cultivation of key crops in greenhouses throughout the winter months ensures that Al-Sayafia’s produce remains in demand across Iraq, offering a reliable source of income despite the influx of imported goods.
He also points to the natural advantages provided by the Tigris River, which shields the area from drought. However, he notes that occasional power outages have posed challenges, though the situation has improved recently. “Despite the urbanization encroaching on our borders, we remain committed to our agricultural lifestyle, valuing it above the allure of city living,” he asserts.
Ibrahim Jamal, representing the Al-Sayafia Farmers’ Association, speaks to the collective effort to address agricultural challenges and restore the area’s green vistas, once marred by neglect. Through “continuous engagement with the Ministry of Agriculture, the community has overcome obstacles like fertilizer shortages,” ensuring the provision of essential farming supplies.