Once ravaged by war, Iraq’s date palms are swaying once more

Iraq as soon as led the world in date manufacturing, however misplaced over half its bushes to battle. Now the nation’s icon palms are being revived together with the business they assist

Labeeb Kashif Al-Gitta begins his day with a really literal style of his personal candy success, mixing ripe dates with a glass of milk or munching by means of a handful of the sun-dried fruits over a cup of espresso.

4 years in the past, as a part of a drive to rescue the date palm from the ravages of many years of Iraqi confict, Al-Gitta took a modest 20 bushes underneath his wing in a pioneering ‘adopt-a-palm’ programme.

At the moment, he has 12,000 in his care, many nurtured again to well being after years of abandonment in again gardens or farms, and even lining the pavements of metropolis streets. And he’s not stopping there.

“Subsequent yr, 50,000,” he enthused from the Baghdad headquarters of Nakhla, that means ‘palm tree’ in Arabic. “We’re aiming to have one million bushes and turn into one of many greatest date producers on this planet.”

However Al-Gitta’s imaginative and prescient is about extra than simply numbers. By serving to rescue his homeland’s nationwide image – the date palm – from decay, he’s additionally reviving its misplaced heritage.

Iraq as soon as led the world in date manufacturing, however misplaced over half of its 30m bushes to battle – with Iran within the Eighties and the US-led invasion in 2003. At the moment its international share of the world’s date market stands at simply 5 per cent – a protracted fall from grace for a nation as soon as generally known as the King of Dates.

A person harvests dates from a palm tree in Iraq. Picture: Nakhla

The spark for Al-Gitta’s rescue mission was a TV programme about an ‘adopt-a-beehive’ initiative within the United Arab Emirates. Al-Gitta thought he may apply the identical mannequin to newly planted date palms, however immediately hit a snag. “Individuals don’t need to wait 4 or 5 years for the primary harvest,” he defined.

As a substitute, he turned his consideration to mature bushes which – by means of years of neglect – had ceased to bear fruit. For an annual subscription of $35-$75 (£30- £64) per tree, Nakhla offers a complete care programme, together with fertilising, pruning and harvesting, and using expert climbers who scale the 40-foot palms to collect the fruit.

We’re aiming to have one million bushes and turn into one of many greatest date producers on this planet

It’s then processed and bought, with palm homeowners receiving a share of the income. In a tandem mannequin run at the side of the Iraqi authorities, companies can sponsor bushes on metropolis pavements in return for a mini-billboard and a few tax breaks.

For now, Nakhla’s market is basically home and largely seasonal. Ramadan is a favoured time, when dates are historically eaten to interrupt the day by day quick. Al-Gitta, although, has different concepts. “We’d like folks to eat them every single day, “ he stated. “Like me. For well being, and for power.”

Primary picture: Mhrezaa

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