Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Agriculture dying in Iraq

Iraq is suffering a triple threat to it's farming. Too much salt in the soil, water shortages and drought, and land turning into desert are all putting great pains on the countries efforts to provide it's own food. Those three factors have caused many winter crops in Iraq to fail.

From the IRIN, we read a further explanation on the effects of Iraqi farming.

“We are suffering from a real and serious water crisis,” Mahdi al-Qaisi, undersecretary in the Agriculture Ministry, told IRIN in Baghdad. “We are not expecting winter season crops to meet local demand, and summer crops will probably be affected as well,” al-Qaisi said.

Precipitation levels this past winter were only half the normal average, he said, adding that the situation was made worse by a reduction in the amount of water flowing into the Tigris and Euphrates from Turkey and Iran.

“We are counting on the Ministry of Trade to fill the gaps… by importing wheat and barley and distributing them through its food programme [state-run food rations scheme],” he added.

The winter harvest data are not yet available.

“Very scary”

Decades of war, UN sanctions, underinvestment, military operations, and the cutting down of trees for firewood have paralysed Iraq’s agricultural sector and increased salinity and desertification to “very scary levels”, al-Qaisi said.

According to the Agriculture Ministry, salinity is affecting at least 40 percent of agricultural land, mainly in central and southern Iraq, while 40-50 percent of what was agricultural land in the 1970s has been affected by desertification.

According to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), desertification is the degradation of land in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas. It is caused primarily by human activities and climatic variations. Desertification does not refer to the expansion of existing deserts. It occurs because dryland ecosystems, which cover over one third of the world‘s land area, are extremely vulnerable to over-exploitation and inappropriate land use. Poverty, political instability, deforestation, overgrazing and bad irrigation practices can all undermine the productivity of the land.

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