Monday 10 October 2011

LAND GRABBING IN KURDISTAN الاستحواذ على الاراضي الزراعيه

Visiting the farm
 Earlier this year I was asked to look into the plight of a farmer who was threatened with the loss of his land for ‘development’. I visited the farm which proved to be just over 60 donims of prime agricultural land that is used for wheat, barley and fruit production as well as sheep, goat and poultry production. The farm had some of the best agricultural land that I have seen in Kurdistan and this year’s crop of wheat and barley was a vivid green against the rich, brown soil.
The river Zab behind the trees
 On one side of the farm is the Zab river and on the opposing side is an irrigation canal so that there is an ample supply of water for the crops and livestock. Yet the livelihood of the families who made their living from this land has been under threat for 2 years because someone wants to build a factory for ceramics on this prime agricultural land that supports eleven families.

Empty Poultry houses &;Brown field behind
The threat to the farm is such that the poultry houses have lain unused for 2 years as the farmer cannot afford to take the financial risk of buying new stock when at any time the families could be thrown out of their homes. Close to this rich farmland (a green field site) is land that has little agricultural value as it has had military camps on it in the past, (a brown field site), that could be used for a factory development. Yet the ‘developer’ refuses to consider this site and is insisting on taking the farmland.The brown field site that could be developed is on the other side of the low hill at the back of this wheat field.
As the government’s adviser for agriculture. I made the recommendation that the farmer’s rights should be upheld and this fertile, prime agricultural land remained in agricultural use and that the brown field site could be used for industrial development. This "development" on the bank of the river will polute the river Zab extensively. 
Agriculture machinary
However the Director of Agriculture in the district  where this farm is located supported the developer’s claim for the land stating that the farmland had a garage on it! The ‘garage’ is the open depot where the agricultural machinery that is hired by the surrounding farms is kept! How can tractors, harvesters, sprayers etc. rank alongside garages for cars! What is present on this farm is a resource of machinery that is vital to local farmers who cannot afford to own the equipment they need access to. Such a facility should be welcomed by any self respecting agriculturist and the farmer should be applauded for providing it.
It is unbelievable that:
  •  A productive farm will be taken away from the farmer who owns it and a business man is allowed to build a ceramic factory on its wheat fields,
  • Eleven families are made homeless and lose their livelihood,
  • Air pollution, ground and water pollution can all occur in the vicinity of ceramic factory. The web sites full of example for such pollution all over the world. 
  • Heavy polution to the river Zab which feed the Tigris river.
  •  Access to the loan of vital agricultural machinery is lost to other farmers in the district.
  • Lack of raw material for ceramic factories has led to closure of most of these factories in Iraq. It does not make sense to start another on the bank of Zab river. 
Thos would not be allowed in other countries where agricultural land is valued and farmers supported. What is even more frustrating is that Iraq has empty factories, including many ceramic factories, on offer to investors, (Iraqi Daily News August 2011).  One can only hope that common sense will prevail and this farm is protected and its fields remain in production. More important that the river Zab will be protected.

( The satellite map shows the green land , the farm, lies between the river and the irrigation canal next to vast brown land . The map also shows the proposed location of the ceramic factory on the bank of the river. This proposed ceramic factory is an invitation to a big pollution scandal that someone will have take responsibility for)

I have supported the fight against land grabbing throughout the world for many years now and added my voice to those that support the cause of the small farmer against those foreign investors who want to take the land from those whose existence depends on it. Now I am trying to stop land grabbing on my own doorstep here in Kurdistan where someone with money wants to take away the land from farming families. It would be immoral and a travesty of human rights if these families have their livlihood snatched away from them.

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