Kurdistan Autonomous Region of Iraq
Braw farm is a 40 hectare farm in the village of Karbajna in Sulaymaniyah province, Kurdistan Autonomous Region of Iraq. Since 1962, Sheikh Jamal has been living on the land and farming full time. Today, he is well revered in his community as a pioneer, having bred 12 varieties of tomatoes, 1 variety of pepper, and 2 varieties of wheat which have been certified for the market. His love of agriculture and farming led him to continuously innovate, and reach out to the Slemani Agriculture Research Center for advice and support. Through a fruitful collaboration, he has developed these varieties of tomatoes which are more resistant to pest and diseases, locally adapted to the climate, are tasty, and produce higher yields. Despite the many challenges the region faces: market instability, war and conflict, Sheikh Jamal has persevered and continued to produce high quality varieties for the Kurdish population. He continues to breed varieties of tomatoes, wheat, vegetables, and poultry that are more resilient to climate change. His seeds are sold to local farmers, who are allowed to save the seeds. He is therefore contributing to autonomy of inputs in a region where this is crucial for ensuring food security during times of conflict.
Braw farm in the village of Karbajnah in the Sangaw district, located around 80 km southwest of Slemani. Braw farm is a representation of a "typical Kurdish farm,” located in the foothills of the Qaradagh mountains. It is owned and managed by Sheikh Jamali Karbajana. The farm is 40 hectares in total, with 10 hectares for breeding and experimentation, and 30 hectares for crop and vegetable production. All the products are sold in Kurdistan, and primarily to local markets in the area. The primary objective of the farm is to continue to produce as sustainable and resilient as possible. For him, that means eliminating chemical pesticide and fertilizer and ensuring drought resilience. In addition to farming for local markets, the farm produces poultry (chickens, pheasants, and turkeys), dairy cows, fruits, vegetables and grain for home consumption.
Over the last few decades, Sheikh Jamali Karbajana has been working in collaboration with the Slemani Agricultural Research Center and together they successfully registered for the market 12 varieties of tomatoes, 1 pepper variety, and 2 varieties of wheat. This feat was achieved due to decades of meticulous breeding by Sheikh Jamali Karbajana, driven primarily by his passion and love of agriculture, as well as his capacity to collaborate with knowledge institutes. The varieties have been selected for high yield in low input farming methods (chemical pesticide and fertilizer), drought resilience, and for taste and cooking reflective of local Kurdish dishes and taste preferences.
Mr. Karbajana grows tomatoes for both seed and production in indoor plastic polytunnels as well as outdoor fields. Breeding trials take into account production in both conditions. These open-pollinated seeds are for sale on the market, and farmers around Kurdistan, Iraq and even Iran are already using them due to their high yielding potential and adaptation to the local climate and taste. These seeds are providing vital local inputs, which would otherwise be imported from abroad from countries in Europe, such as the Netherlands. Additionally, because they are bred in low-chemical input and local conditions, they produce high yields for Kurdish farmers who utilize less chemical inputs. Numerous PhD and MSc students have conducted research on the tomato cultivar. One of which resulted in a publication in which Mr. Jamal is a co-author, titled “Comparative study related to physico-chemical properties of four tomato cultivars grown in Kurdistan region, Iraq.”
Iraq is known as the “cradle of agriculture,” primarily due to ancient Mesopotamians role in domesticating wheat over 10,000 years ago. Today, Sheikh Jamali Karbajana continues the ancient practice of traditional wheat breeding by selecting cultivars that both harness ancient Kurdish food traditions, while reflecting modern day challenges such as changing climate. He has already certified two wheat varieties for the market, including one variety which he has preserved since 1997 as a response to the scandalous Oil-for-Food Programme, but continues even today on improving the varieties as climate is the latest challenge to overcome. Last year, he had planted 50 ha of wheat and barley, but due to drought he lost all potential income. As a result, this year he has reduced the area planted to 30 ha.
Beyond selecting for drought resilience, he would like to produce a wheat variety that is high in protein, specifically for couscous production. After the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent closure of borders and impacts on trade, he has seen an increase in interest from the community to eat locally grown products. Therefore, he is now motivated to process his own grain (e.g. into couscous or other products) and sell it under his own brand.
Farmer and plant breeder.
Son of Sheikh Jamal and agriculture student.
Co-founder "The Middle Green"