In pictures: IDPs showcase tasty creations at Erbil festival of sweets
By A.C. Robinson
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The Mitmana Ba Khomana Festival of local sweets took place in Erbil on Saturday, showcasing a variety of local confectionaries and other handmade products created by refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and host communities.
Mitmana Ba Khoman, which means “trust in authenticity” is the final step of a United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) program catered to training men and women to kick start their own businesses.
“The main goal of the festival was to support local business and support all of those who worked on these products,” Bilia Nabaz, assistant manager of the Book Café where the event took place, told Rudaw English.
“In the city you don’t normally see women dressed in our traditional clothing and you don’t get to taste our traditional foods as often, so it feels nice to get a taste of that today.”
UNIDO launched a new program in October of last year in the Kurdistan Region for IDPs, refugees and host communities to train them in the agri-business sector to enhance livelihoods and employability that could contribute to their future economic stability and food security.
“UNIDO helped us train and prepare everything for selling at this festival today,” Hassan Mohammed Abdullah, a 45-year-old refugee from northern Syria, told Rudaw. “They gave us the confidence to succeed.”
Another participant, Narmen Hassan Abdul from Shaqlawa, took part in UNIDO’s training and learned how to make fruit leather, pomegranate syrup, dried vegetables, and fruit preserves, which she was selling at the festival.
“The training UNIDO provided taught us a lot and is very useful for us,” Abdul told Rudaw. “We would not be at this stage without their help.”
She is happy the festival allowed her to launch her products and hopes to have a factory and her own business one day.
The primary goal of UNIDO is to “strengthen economic resilience of Syrian refugees, Iraqi IDPs, returnees and their host communities and promote inclusive sustainable industrial development” within the Kurdistan Region.
In December, UNIDO celebrated the graduation of 82 female trainees in Shaqlawa who received certificates in the agri-business sector, including food processing for micro industries.
“The project seeks to help families secure much needed income through capacity-building in weaker and vulnerable sections of society, especially women,” said UNIDO’s National Coordinator Mahmood Khoshnaw from the Shaqlawa Ministry of Agriculture.
The trainees included local Kurdish women, as well as 22 Iraqi IDPs and Syrian refugees who have lived in Shaqlawa since fleeing ISIS in 2014.
The program emphasized hygienic food processing at home to serve demands for Shaqlawa’s popular local products of bazook, fruit leather, lokum, pomegranate concentrate, and other confectioneries.
The training, including production skills and entrepreneurship, began in October and ended the first week of December. However, the program continues as part of a value chain project that goes from the farms to the marketplace
“The premise is that we need to strengthen the local economy and the local enterprises so that the economy can continue to support the presence of the IDPs and the refugees,” Peewee Culaton-Viray, Chief Technical Adviser for the Employment and Food Security Project of UNIDO, told Rudaw when the training programs in the agri-business sector first launched in October.
Photos: A.C. Robinson