Un Ponte Per has recently started an ambitious new 2-year project in Southern Iraq, funded by UNDP. Sumereen: Sumerian Youth for Economic Development and Cultural Heritage aims to create employment opportunities for youth in Dhi Qar, drawing on the cultural and natural heritage of the Governorate. Communities there have been struggling to make a living within the existing local market, while the public sector presents the main source of employment. Un Ponte Per believes the Marshlands and the site of Ur, both included in the UNESCO World Heritage List as the Ahwar, can foster the socio-economic development of Dhi Qar Governorate. The program will generate jobs through sustainable tourism and heritage preservation, while focusing on youth and women and key actors building a new development path for the region. It will promote Dhi Qar as a tourist destination, through the construction of tourist infrastructure, provision of vocational trainings in eco-tourism and environmental conservation, as well as the creation of jobs for local communities in eco-tourism and cultural preservation. The implementation will take place jointly with partners Humat Dijlah, Safina Projects and Carlo Leopardi Studio.
Sumereen aims to involve local communities, women, youth, civil society, local authorities and the private sector through participatory processes for the preservation and development of the site. A coalition inclusive of all stakeholders, local authorities also, will manage the sustainable development of these sites and identify which skills should be acquired locally. The development plans for Ur and the Marshes will include sustainable tourism facilities and infrastructure which will regulate the flow of visitors. In addition, communities will receive training in order to gain skills that fit the market or to successfully employ the existing capacities. Training shall guarantee the endurance of the traditional ecological knowledge held by the men and women of the Marsh Arab communities, but it should also enable workers to found small cooperatives and lead their path to economic and personal development. Local ownership is key in this project.
Due to Covid-19, there will currently be limited deployment in the field. On 15 June the project was presented to local authorities in Dhi Qar. The first stage of Sumereen will work on the development of a study for the creation of a traditional eco-village in Chibayish and an executive plan for the visitors’ tour in Ur archaeological site, to be approved by UNDP and local authorities. Plans will be developed to set up workshops for the production of traditional boats, handicrafts, gifts and food production. Campaigns celebrating and promoting the rich heritage of Dhi Qar will be launched online.