Na’ima strode out to meet her guests with a confident and open smile, wrapping her traditional Yazidi scarf of purple loosely around her hair as she inquired about the chickens. “They’ll come tomorrow; right now they are waiting at the border from Iran,” said Hashim, the ZSVP project manager. “I’ll believe it when I see it,” she retorted, and laughed. Inside, her small house is simple and well-arranged. Colorful cushions, which are pulled out every night to cover the concrete floor where the family sleeps, are stacked neatly from cupboard to ceiling every morning and screened with a gauzy fabric. Before serving traditional Iraqi tea—black, sweet, and scalding hot in small glasses—Na’ima goes around the room with a pitcher of cold water and one glass cup, which she offers to each guest in turn. Most decline, but those who accept drink it down in one gulp as she waits, then hand it back to her to fill for the next thirsty guest.
She and her family are from a village on Sinjar mountain, but they left when ISIS came in 2014 and lived for a year and a half in a camp for internally displaced persons in Dohuk governorate, about two hours north by car. They returned to their village in early 2016 and found that their house was gutted. Families who had fled from other areas to take refuge on Sinjar mountain had used and taken what belongings Na’ima and her family had, so “when we returned we started over with nothing.” Her husband is a soldier with the Kurdish Peshmerga forces and is gone for weeks at a time; they have five children between the ages of ten and two.
As a participant in the poultry livelihoods project, Na’ima learned how to mold the mud bricks herself, building the sturdy square chicken house and plastering it with white clay in the traditional manner. Using the local building materials is cheaper than trucking in cement cinder blocks, and the traditional construction style provides better insulation from both the summer heat and winter chill. While this type of construction is more commonly men’s work, Na’ima was matter-of-fact and confident about her ability to learn new things. “I can do anything,” she said. “I am even watching the news on television and learning to read and write in Kurdish.”
Through MCC’s Syria and Iraq crisis response fund, MCC’s partner Zakho Small Villages Project (ZSVP) is providing emergency livelihoods support to extremely vulnerable families in two villages on Sinjar mountain, in Ninewa governorate of Iraq, who have been affected by the ongoing conflict with the Islamic State group. This project provides fifty households with start-up materials, training, and twenty chickens for home-based poultry livelihoods, as well as employing members of the local community through short term “cash for work” projects to construct the poultry houses and repair the damaged village water system to provide water to every household, thereby extending the impact of the project beyond the immediate beneficiaries to the entire community.