Short message service (SMS) technology will allow thousands of rural farmers to be paid electronically and return to their agrarian livelihoods in areas of northern Iraq recently liberated from ISIS and in the Kurdistan Region.
“Participant names and identity numbers are pre-registered with the company [Zain], and they receive a free SIM card,” detailed the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). “Once each person completes a certain number of days of work, they receive a text message containing a personalized security code.
“They can then collect their wages from any certified money mobile transfer agent, provided their code and identity number match those registered.”
The Belgium government-funded program will support 12,000 conflict-affected people in 30 villages in Kirkuk, Anbar, Salahaddin and Nineveh governorates.
“As well as providing much-needed income for participants, the program will improve agricultural production in the surrounding communities, through activities including rehabilitating canals for irrigation to grow crops and preparing farmland for planting,” said Fadel El-Zubi, FAO Representative in Iraq El-Zubi.
FAO and Iraq’s Zain telecommunications have partnered for the “cash-for-work program.”
“This, in turn, will encourage community members still displaced by conflict to return home and begin farming again,” Zubi added. “FAO’s aim is to support people to get back on their feet as quickly as possible, and reduce their reliance on food assistance.”
As of 15 July, more than 3.3 million people remained displaced within Iraq, while about 2 million had returned home, according to UN data.
Around 12 million Iraqis live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. Decades of conflict have destroyed fields, farms, infrastructure, livestock and crops.
“The use of mobile technology will streamline the safe delivery of cash transfers to participants, who are some of the most vulnerable people in the country,” said Zubi.
FAO estimates $74.5 million is needed to assist 1.39 million people this year who work in the husbandry and agriculture industries.