Basra, Iraq – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), in partnership with the local government of Basra, Iraq’s Ministry of Environment, and the University of Basra’s Marine Science Centre started a mangrove nursery in the tidal flats region with the capacity to produce up to one million mangrove seedlings annually.
The initiative aims to preserve a mangrove ecosystem that enhances the region’s biodiversity, sequesters carbon, and mitigates the risks of climatic shocks while also alleviating poverty by creating sustainable sources of income for coastal and fisherfolk communities.
“Through a collaborative effort with WFP and the international community, we are working towards transforming this area into an environmental exemplar through the planting of mangrove trees,” His Excellency Asaad Al-Eidani, the Governor of Basra said during an event there to launch the nursery. “When people with a genuine interest in improving our environment come together, remarkable achievements are made for Basra.”
WFP and its partners have set an initial target of planting one million mangrove samplings per production cycle. This aligns closely with the Government of Iraq’s commitment to plant five million trees in response to the climate crisis, as demonstrated during the Iraq Climate Conference.
“We affirm the Government of Iraq’s dedication to the Paris Climate Agreement and the Iraqi national contributions to climate change, which serve as the guiding principles for climate action in Iraq,” said His Excellency Nazar Mohammed Saaid Ameedi, Iraq’s Minister of Environment. “We are eager to continue collaborating with the United Nations, diplomatic missions, and international agencies to enhance the resilience of affected sectors.”
Mangrove restoration offers an effective and affordable nature-based solution to combat the climate crisis, providing a return of US$4 for every US$1 invested.
“Addressing the impacts of climate change poses a significant challenge for Iraq. WFP has demonstrated great commitment in finding solutions, and the reintroduction of mangroves is one such solution. I commend our partner for their exceptional efforts,” said Mr. Volker Oel, Director for Middle East; South-Eastern/Eastern Europe and Latin America at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. “Germany stands ready to continue supporting Iraq and its people alongside WFP. I am pleased to announce that we have allocated an additional allocation of €11 million (US$12 million) from this year’s budget for WFP’s work in the country.”
The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, highlighting the adverse effects of climate change on Iraq, recognized the efforts of all those who have made the nursery project a reality, including the volunteers. “Looking around us today – surrounded by the people who are leading the charge against climate change, reaffirming the success that is born from our collaboration – I believe we can also feel hopeful about what lies ahead,” she said.
Mangroves serve as habitats and nurseries for numerous fish species, safeguard crops and human settlements against storm surges and erosion, and filter pollutants that could contaminate food sources.
“Introducing mangroves in the southern region of Iraq is a significant step towards combating the effects of the climate crisis and enhancing food security,” said Ally-Raza Qureshi, WFP Representative and Country Director in Iraq. “While planting mangrove trees might not be the first solution that comes to mind when considering food security, it is a crucial piece of the puzzle.”