Life after conflict: Arjan restarts his dairy farm

Arjan was forced to flee during the liberation from ISIL, leaving his home and dairy farm behind. Read how he is building back his life.

October 8, 2022

Arjan recently purchased a cow using the grant.

Photo: World Vision

Meet Arjan Saadon Shawkat, 31, a father of three who lives in Tooz, Salah al-Din. His fondest memories growing up were spending time with his father on their farm in Yangija, a village five kilometres from Tooz. A wheelchair user from birth, he remembers spending long hours after school feeding the livestock on the farm. He always dreamt about taking over the dairy farm from his parents one day.

Life took an unfortunate turn for Arjan and his family during the liberation from ISIL. They had to flee, leaving their home and farm behind. "I still remember how we were worried for our safety. And how I was more worried about our cattle," he recalls.

Arjan and his family fled overnight. "One night, we decided to leave the house and take the cattle along with us. My brother, Yunus, carried me on his back. We fled towards the city centre, five kilometres from our home. When we arrived the next morning, we received the news that ISIL burned down our house." He remembers how heartbroken and devastated his family felt on hearing the news.

Arjan's family was forced to use their savings to rent a place in Tooz. Unfortunately, they did not have enough funds to feed or provide medical attention for the cattle. Over time, they started to lose their cattle.

Arjan's health deteriorated during this period, and he had to undergo life-saving spinal surgery. The surgery was costly, forcing his family to sell the remaining cattle and borrow money. "I felt like I was the main reason for losing our only source of livelihood and for selling the cattle that was with us throughout our lives.” This feeling forced Arjan to focus on his health and work towards building back what they lost.

Five years after liberation, Arjan's family returned to their village. He was more determined than ever to reestablish their dairy farm. Along with his brother, wife and parents, Arjan cleared the rubble and started to restore the house and farm slowly. "I cleaned and rebuilt the cattle barn by myself. I strongly believed that I would find an opportunity to buy cattle one day."

This was when Arjan heard about a start-up grant and business development training organized by UNDP. He grabbed onto the opportunity and immediately applied for it. He was then shortlisted based on a pre-determined criterion considering his socio-economic situation.

During the training, Arjan was always the first to turn up and one of the most engaged. He was determined to use this opportunity to rebuild the dairy farm. On receiving the grant, Arjan purchased a couple of cows

Today, Arjan is the primary caretaker and manager of the farm. He ensures the quality of milk products while also managing the sales and supply chain. He recently rented out additional farmland to cultivate wheat. He plans to use his profits from the wheat farm to expand his dairy business. He now dreams of building a dairy farm larger than he had before the conflict.

The project is implemented by UNDP's Iraq Crisis Response and Resilience Programme, in partnership with World Vision, with funding from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), provided through KFW Development Bank. Over 980 people, like Arjan from Tooz, have received business development and grant support. A version of the story was published on World Vision's website here.