Fruits and Vegetables Help Grow Hope in Iraq

September 11, 2023 • Iraq
A Samaritan’s Purse staff member helps Layla’s son bag some of their harvest of a local variety of onion.

Samaritan’s Purse is helping internally displaced people return to their homes in war-ravaged Sinjar by providing them with agroforestry assistance.

Fruit Trees

Layla’s* village in Sinjar, Iraq, is surrounded by the green of olive and apricot trees as well as tomato and potato crops flourishing in abundance.

This lush vegetation is a stark contrast to the wasteland ISIS had left in their wake years before. Thanks to a Samaritan’s Purse agroforestry project, the new trees and vegetables growing in the area represent much more than just plants—much more than sources of food.

They are symbols of hope, encouraging Layla and others to abandon life in displacement camps and to return home to rebuild their lives.

Layla works her fields, which provide an income and a source of hope to her family of seven.

Like many of the minority Yazidi ethnic group, Layla and her family of seven were forced to evacuate their region when ISIS attacked in 2014.

Given convert-or-die threats when the jihadists ravaged their way through the Yazidis’ homeland, they were forced to leave behind all they had worked for and flee for their lives.

Layla had already seen great hardship in her life prior to that point. A widow left to care for her large family, she was familiar with loss and learned to courageously overcome that pain for the sake of her children. The greatest sadness she has ever faced, though, was the destruction of the beauty, joy, and peace that was once so easily found in her village.

Layla and her family thankfully escaped harm and found physical safety in displacement camps after the attacks. Living in tents for seven long years with no way for Layla to make a living or otherwise provide for her family, they were forced to rely on aid to survive.

In this situation in the camps, Layla continued to hope for home.

Signs of Life

In 2021, Layla made a journey back to Sinjar. She had long wanted to walk through the land she’d not seen in seven years. When she arrived home, she was speechless.

The home she’d left under the scourge of ISIS had grown into a lush and vibrant landscape.

Growers had successfully planted fruit trees and rows of vegetables into Sinjar’s abandoned and lifeless soil. Their care for the ground had resulted in flourishing plants and, likewise, in new signs of life among friends and family.

Layla’s son works with Samaritan’s Purse to inspect their fields.

The area was beginning to look more like the home she’d known before. It gave Layla hope that she, too, could return and rebuild her life there, and that’s exactly what she did.

Returning Home to Sinjar

That was two years ago, and it was this homecoming that brought her into contact with Samaritan’s Purse.

After two seasons of hard work and only meager harvests, she began to wonder how the families around her were experiencing such success.

This is how she learned the term agroforestry, a practice that encourages orchard growing. Groves of region-specific trees are planted as saplings. Irrigation systems are established. Between the rows of saplings, farmers plant other fruits and vegetables.

Layla’s family planted tomatoes between their tree saplings.

These are the practices that Samaritan’s Purse teams were encouraging among the established local farmers who had earlier returned to the same war-scarred land. And now their land was flourishing.

This year, Samaritan’s Purse invited Layla to participate in the agroforestry program as well.
Her agricultural background and strong desire to develop her farm provided a natural fit. Since then, we have provided Layla with training as well as physical assets including an agroforestry plot, an irrigation system, fruit tree saplings, and vegetable seeds.

Today, Layla is proudly growing olives, apricots, pistachios, and pomegranates on her farm and between these growing trees are rows of tomatoes, potatoes, onions, and peanuts. She is already harvesting the vegetables and selling them at the market as she waits for the trees to bear fruit.

Thanks to the efforts of Samaritan’s Purse agroforestry project, Layla’s tomato harvest is plentiful this year!

Layla’s well-tended crops are giving her a sense of comfort and stability since she is now providing food and income for her family and her community. She hopes that others who visit Sinjar may see her green farm and be encouraged, as she was, to return.

Layla is especially grateful to Samaritan’s Purse because this livelihoods opportunity has given new hope to her family and the surrounding communities. We have already distributed hundreds of seed packages as well as olive, apricot, pomegranate, fig, and pistachio saplings to those returning to Sinjar.

Layla harvested a strong crop of potatoes in 2023.

Please pray for Layla, her family, and other participants in the agroforestry program to be strengthened to rebuild following years of tragedy. Pray also for Samaritan’s Purse staff as we serve them in Jesus’ Name.

*Name changed for security

Fruit Trees In many of the places we work, Samaritan’s Purse provides seedlings of avocado, papaya, mango, and other trees that can thrive even on the fringe of the desert. Your gift of $45 can supply a poor family with 30 seedlings that will feed and shade them for generations to come.

Fruit Trees & Forestry Projects 013926
Suggested Gift: $45