Iraq: Campaign to save the nation's date palms bears fruit

Thousands of young date palms, Iraq’s national symbol, form lines that extend from the edge of the desert near the central city of Karbala and into the horizon. These trees are central to a push aimed to preserve a long-threatened ancestral culture, whose fruit historically presented prosperity across the Arab world.

Once known as the “country of 30 million palm trees,” and home to 600 varieties of the fruit, Iraq’s date production has been blighted by decades of conflict and environmental challenges, including drought, desertification and salinization.

“The date palm is the symbol and pride of Iraq,” says Mohamed Abul-Maali, commercial director at the Fadak date plantation. The Fadak plantation is a 500-hectare (1,235 acres) farm. Abul-Maali hopes the project, launched in 2016, will “restore this culture to what it used to be.”

Of the 30,000 trees planted at Fadak, more than 6,000 are already producing fruit, according to Abul-Maali. He expects this year’s harvest to reach 60 tons, a threefold increase on 2021.


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