First of all, I would like to welcome you again and thank you for your interest in the Kurdistan Botanical Foundation (KBF). I would especially like to thank our members for their contribution and support, and to encourage anyone visiting our website to become a member.
This October is the second anniversary of the Foundation, and I am pleased to inform you that we have achieved our goals and more, despite the serious challenges that our country is going through.
I worry for the whole region because of the extraordinarily difficult political, economic and security challenges facing Iraq, Syria and neighboring countries. Iraqi Kurdistan is no exception. We have many challenges, such as fighting the Islamic State while coping with a plummeting economy. The number of refugees and internally displaced people in our region has risen this year, placing an even greater stress on our economy and producing significant demographic changes. In some areas, the population has increased by 50%. Still, we have reason to remain persistent in trying to improve the situation. In Iraq, and in Kurdistan especially, there have been many wars and economic crises in the past, and we have learned important lessons from these experiences.
The goals of the KBF are to study, collect, identify, record, and preserve the botanical wealth of Kurdistan. This year, we finished a botanical survey of the Azmer-Goizha mountain in the Sulaimani district. This was a tremendous and dedicated two-year effort to finish all of the 121 waypoints we planned. Our annual ten month surveys (which last from March to November) resulted in the collection over 4,700 specimens of around 1,000 species. This is especially exciting because, to an untrained eye, the mountain can appear bare and devoid of plants. We will also write a botanical field guide and complete a checklist for the Azmer-Goizha mountain during this study. One of the Foundation’s goals is to build capacity by training young graduates and scientists. In this respect, we are pleased that many young graduates have joined our work in the field and the KBF Herbarium as employees or volunteers.
This year we have managed to convince a very generous and forward-thinking businessman in Sulaimani to sponsor another very important project, the Botanical Survey of Qara Dagh mountain. This is a challenging project because Qara Dagh includes many high-elevation, rugged mountains and encompasses a total area that far exceeds that of Azmer. As we started the February 2015 survey, we estimate that this ongoing field research will take at least three years to complete, followed by another year of writing the checklist. So far this year, we have collected about 5,400 specimens from 78 waypoints. These specimens have been sorted in the KBF Herbarium, and will soon be identified and categorized according to species by our team. Because Qara Dagh has been inaccessible to prior botanical explorers, we expect to find important species that are new to Iraq and perhaps new to the world.
On behalf of the KBF, I am very grateful to our donor and want thank him for making possible this essential study that will be crucial for students, scientists and the next generation. The identity of all our collections is verified Dr.Ihsan Al-Shehbaz, a member of our board of directors who is also involved in the advanced training of the KBF staff and students from local universities.For that reason, I would like to note a special thank you to Dr. Ihsan Al-Shehbaz for his continuous engagement and support to the KBF.
In my last letter, I noted that we are involved in two major projects in the Sulaimani district. One is the establishment of a Kurdistan National Herbarium at the University of Sulaimani and the other is the foundation of the Botanical Garden in one of the largest parks in the Middle East (Hawari Shar Park). Unfortunately, both projects are currently on hold because of a freeze in the government funding that was provided for them.
Sarbagh Salih, Ph.D.
President of the Board, KBF
Kurdistan Botanical Foundation
October 30, 2015