In vast green fields, single mothers’ journeys of doing it all on their own

Hanaa in the green field
Thursday, November 23, 2023

Hanaa remembers those early days of her childhood very vividly when she was heading out in dusk with her mother and younger sister to walk for twenty minutes to reach wheat and barley fields of the countryside of Saqlwaiyah, a city in Anbar that is eight kilometers away from the city of Fullajah.

Hanaa said, “I used to accompany her at a very young age, but she taught me everything at the age of ten.” They were going out at dusk and heading back home when the sun just hit vertically at noon. Hanaa was helping her mother with the harvest while her younger sister was carrying water for them. Hanaa learned how to take care of cows and sheep, and how to do agricultural work.

When Hanaa was a little child of five years of age, her parents got divorced. She never got to meet her father and she has no memory of him. Hanaa’s mother then moved with her two little daughters to live in one house with her siblings. They were fifteen members living under one roof.

Young Hanaa studied until third year of primary school and then dropped out to accompany her mother to the fields. The landowners would give her mother more wage if little Hanna accompanied her. Those days of being in the field and surrounded by nature helping her mother were beautiful in the eyes and memory of today’s forty-one-year-old Hanaa. Those days were surely difficult for her mother. If she didn’t work, she didn’t have any means to sustain a living, to bring food to the table, and to buy necessities for the family.

Since then and until Hanaa got married at the age of twenty-nine, she continued to work in the fields supporting her mother. Over the years married Hanaa had two girls and two boys. During those marital days, Hanaa’s life changed. She was spending most of the time indoor taking care of her children while her husband was out farming and bringing income to the family.

Days have passed quietly and peacefully for Hanaa and her family until 2016 when she lost her husband during the conflict. After Hanaa’s husband went missing, she and her family spent five months in one of the camps for internally displaced persons before they returned to their hometown. Then, Hanaa and the women of the village returned to their hometown to see the area completely uninhabited.  Hanaa said, “I became bewildered. I questioned myself: how could I raise my children? I don’t have a man, there is neither electricity nor water pumps, the lands are deserted, the tractors and the machines are gone, how could we live? For a period of four months, we could not do anything. But then a humanitarian organisation came offering help. Our town was deserted. All men were missing, and we were just women with little children.”

Hanaa shared that the humanitarian organisation intervened to give the women a sum of money to invest to help them rebuild their lives and livelihoods. With the amount she received, Hanaa purchased a water pump. In the past, Hanaa used to watch her husband doing agricultural work, and she knew about it even though she wasn’t working lately in agriculture. She bought water pipes and wheat seeds and started to grow the land and work in agriculture again. Hanaa said, “Life improved little by little.”

Hanaa started to harvest wheat and okra. In the beginning the crops had no demand because they were in small quantities. Then dwellers of the village would come and buy. But slowly she started to harvest in large quantities and she was able to sell big.

Earlier this year, Hanaa was part of a training programme that World Vision Iraq implemented in partnership with UNDP Iraq and with funding from KFW and BMZ. She joined the programme for forty days. Hanaa said, “They taught us about agriculture. I knew about agriculture but not very much. We gained a better experience.”

Hanaa shared that before she did not know about proper agricultural planning and methods, but with this training she started to plan for winter and summer seasons and that she started to think of using water wisely. “I learned about drip irrigation systems. I look forward to buying pipes to implement drip irrigation system," said Hanaa. Drip irrigation system is considered to be one of the most efficient water and nutrient systems for healthy growth of crops as it delivers water directly to the plant’s root and saves water.

At the training programme Hanaa also met with other women farmers and got to make friendships there. Hanaa continued, “I enjoyed those forty days a lot. These women talk to you about their problems and advise you.”

These days, Hanna wishes to be able to stay strong and healthy to continue her work in the fields and that her four children grow up and thrive in life. The way her single mother taught her courageousness and gave her lessons in life, she wants to pass them on to her children. Today the only remaining sweet memory of Hanna is when she was walking by the side of her mother in the fields with her sister. Hanaa said, “In those days, my mother was tired and working hard for us, but we were children and didn’t realize anything. We were just laughing and running around following her. I learned from my mother to be patient and to be proud of raising my children.”

Nowadays, her mother is older and retired from work and Hanaa is only able to visit her during the weekends. But Hanaa is grateful for the great lessons her mother taught her from a young age about being a single mother and doing it all on her own raising her children to the best.

Today, despite the harsh experiences Hanaa went through, she has a positive outlook to life as she revealed sharing a message with other single mothers, “It is not difficult. When you head the house and you raise your children to the best, it is a very nice experience. When you are a mother, you want to offer the world to your children.”

Through this project, Supporting a Resilient Economic Recovery by Strengthening the Agriculture Sector in Saqlawiyah District, we aim to empower the capacities of seventy-eight women and seventy-two men farmers on Climate Smart Agricultural Modules through a forty-day intensive programme. Through this programme, we also aim at empowering and supporting single women and mothers like Hanaa to be able to sustain livelihoods through farming and agriculture.