Rooted in Peacebuilding: A Small Business, Two Years On

Sunlight dapples the green leaves, washing them a translucent yellow-gold. Looking around Talal’s plant nursery, it’s hard to believe that a few short years ago, this plot of land in Mosul’s Old City was a barren dump full of war debris.

There’s an art to watering plants, especially when water is scarce. The multi-level watering system minimizes waste. Photo by Lojain Alsaffar for Preemptive Love.

People often know what they need. They need just a little bit of help to get there. That’s why we always start by listening to build relationships built on trust when we’ve been invited into a new community. We share this ethos with Search for Common Ground, our new partner in peacebuilding. As Michael Shipler, Vice President, Strategy at Search for Common Ground, explains, listening is the first step in understanding everyone’s core interests. From mutual trust and understanding, we’re able to negotiate a space in which to work. 

Talal and his family survived ISIS’s takeover of Mosul as best they could although their home was destroyed during the conflict. In 2019, despite having limited resources, Talal cleaned up a patch of wasteland near his home and planted it with grass, his first step towards creating a plant nursery. Unfortunately, he didn’t have enough resources and got into debt.

You heard about Talal, recognized his talent and expertise, and gave him a small business grant in April 2021. Talal bought some plants and started growing others, transforming what was once a neighborhood dump into a thriving green space for the entire community to enjoy. His nursery is the first plant nursery in Mosul’s Old City. Many of the local businesses have Talal’s plants hanging in them. 

Talal shows off the pottery in his new shop. Photo by Lojain Alsaffar for Preemptive Love.

Over one year later, Talal’s business is thriving. He is out of debt and has a steady income in a city that is still rebuilding in the aftermath of violence. Talal has also expanded, adding a small shop selling pottery and nursery accessories. His customer base has expanded, too, with people outside of Mosul ordering Talal’s plants and pottery for delivery. His story of agency and resilience was captured by a local news channel which featured Talal and his business on their program. It has also motivated other people in Mosul to plant on vacant lots of land. Talal is generous with his expertise, even offering advice to a new nursery business owner on how to grow healthy plants. He’s generous with his time, too, voluntarily rebuilding a small garden in front of a local mosque.

Talal shares plant growing tips with a neighbor. Photo by Lojain Alsaffar for Preemptive Love.

From trash-strewn soil, seeds took root and a plant nursery grew. Over a year later, Talal continues to inspire and unite his community because development programming rooted in peacebuilding yields lasting impact.