Tuesday 7 June 2011


The land that forms modern Iraq and Kurdistan was the birthplace of agriculture, domestication of livestock and civilization. Knowledge was gained and passed on to the next generation and agriculture, horticulture, livestock care, handcrafts and water management flourished. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were one of the wonders of the ancient world and the laws of Hammurabi recorded the fees due to the veterinarian. In more recent history Iraq had centres for education in modern agriculture and veterinary medicine and in the Arab world only Iraq and Egypt were so advanced. For example, when I was in Libya in the mid 1970’s the majority of the Libyan veterinarians and agriculturists in Tripoli University had been trained by Iraqi

The fertile lands not only produced sufficient food for those who lived there but also a thriving export trade existed. Yet today we are dependent on food imported from neighbouring states and beyond, while in Kurdistan we do not value land in terms of its agricultural potential but rather with regard to the number of villas or other buildings it can accommodate. Today in any governorate in Iraq there are more competent agriculturalists than in many of the Gulf States that are wooing our politicians to give them access to Iraq’s agricultural land. Something those in the Gulf have desired from ancient times.
We cannot continue to sit back complacently and rely on food imports that will continue to rise in cost and which can come from dubious sources increasing the risk of disease. The risks are high and can be illustrated by the recent deaths in Europe caused by Escherichia coli. The time has come for Iraq to move forward from its subservience to the remnants of the Oil for Food program and reassert itself as a country capable of producing its own food. Iraq has a wealth of agricultural professionals who can be called on to revitalize the country’s agriculture and take it forwards towards a degree of self sufficiency yet it seems that the catalyst for this is missing. Why?

One repeatedly hears complaints that the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates are getting less and less as countries upstream take more and more water for their usage, but there is still water flowing past agricultural land in Iraq that is not being used. Why?

Sadly there is too much occupation with what we want now and little, if any, consideration give to what will be needed in the future. We have become content to take the easy road, welcome subsidized food and a salary, get the four wheel drive and the newly built home. We seem to have lost our pride and no longer seek to better ourselves as a nation, and are content to buy what we want from neighbouring states becoming ever more dependent and thereby weakening our food security, food safety and indeed our national security. A nation that cannot feed itself is weak.

 We need to remember that we do not own the land and environment around us but we hold it in trust for future generations. Our children and grandchildren will judge what we do.

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