agricultural sector, in Iraq generally, and in Kurdistan in particular, has
greatly suffered under the rule of the Ba’athist regime. It has been subjected
to a number of distortions of unequal input supply, preferential subsidies, and
import irregularities that overlooked the rules of supply and demand while a heavy
dependence on imports further undermined local production. The regime further
minimized support to research and extension while keeping farmers ill informed
of technological developments and thereby keeping production at subsistence levels.
The two devastating wars again diverted much of the country’s resources to the
defense sector, leaving the agricultural sector wanting for investment and
improvement. These factors forced the farmers to migrate to the towns to work
in sectors other than agriculture.
regime destroyed 4,500 villages in Kurdistan forcing the
to relocate and resulting in many moving to collective towns. The regime also
laid millions of land mines around villages and water sources and in the
rangelands and causing casualties daily. The regime drained the famous marsh
lands of southern Iraq and, in drying out a unique area of wetlands, the environmental
crime of the century was committed and half a million marsh residents were
forced to leave their homes. Again the south, the regime destroyed close to
300,000 palm trees to make room for security roads during the Iraq/Iran war.
After the 1991 uprising, the regime also prevented rice production in the two
governorates of Najaf and Diwaniya. It also dumped fresh water into the Razzaz
salt lake to prevent the flow of fresh water to the South. In short, the regime
did everything to undermine the agricultural sector which was then left in
of the UN Sanctions on Iraq:
Iraqi regime’s behavior, culminating in its invasion
of Kuwait, prompted the International
Community to declare sanctions on Iraq, which totally
brought the country to a standstill in its
capacity to import or export goods. The UN took over Iraqi oil revenues,
putting it in an escrow account, giving the UN total power to manage
such funds. During the years 1992-1995, Iraq was on the verge of
famine as local agricultural output was limited, while its imports
were curtailed by imposed sanctions and lack of funds at the disposal
of the Iraqi government. The vast deterioration of the health and
nutrition status of the Iraqi population forced the UN to act to save
Iraqi lives as it had reached critical levels. So at the end of 1995,
the International community enacted the Oil for Food Program whereby
the UN took over the import of food and other essential items needed
for the health and other sectors, thus saving many lives.
for Food Program as enacted by the UN had many drawbacks.
it allowed only the use of imported food for distribution and prevented the
purchase of locally produced items for distribution throughout Iraq. Secondly,
it distributed food to all sectors of the population, both rich and poor alike.
As the quality of the food was of poor standard, those with the means to do so
opted to buy food from other sources while selling their UN allocation in the local
market. Thus the market was inundated with imported food that had been rejected
by people and this caused a fall in the price of local products especially
wheat. Under such circumstances farmers could not get a fair price for heir
produce and gave up farming to join the rest of the population in reliant on
the food distributed under the Oil for Food Program.
the Oil for Food Program of the UN was replaced by the distribution of food
coupons from the Ministry of Trade and this continuation of food handouts over
almost twenty years has been the main obstacle in the face of the revival of
the agricultural sector. Many other countries have used food distribution
programs in adverse situations but these have always been terminated after a
few years. Iraq is unique in continuing to continue to implement this system
over almost two decades. There has been no political will to terminate the
system and as yet no alternative system has been found to be acceptable by
politicians. (Alternatives have been proposed on Kurdistan Food security.) The
result of food handouts has been the creation of a social situation which I
call the Dependency Culture.
It is against
this background that we should plan the revitalization of the country’s
agricultural sector. The provision of a basic infrastructure of water,
electricity, clinics, and schools should be the
first priority. Farmers should be supported
with required inputs of seeds, fertilizers, agricultural tools,
and plant protection chemicals. Such support would gradually be eliminated
as farmers become self reliant. At this stage agricultural credit
banks are required to provide credit to farmers when they need it.
Trained agricultural extension staff are needed to support farming systems that
should be market oriented. Such staff will also be active in the delivery of
new technologies to the farmers, and to ensure equity of input distribution.
Our objectives are the creation of an advanced, market oriented, and more or less
self reliant, farming system within a relatively short period of time.
rehabilitation plan must first address the revival of village life, input
availability, technology transfer and provision of storage and marketing
facilities. These activities should be carried out in parallel as much as
possible. As farmers’ incomes improve, they will become more and more
basically an agricultural country. It has the land, water, climate and the
expertise required for the cultivation of a large number of both field and
horticultural crops, and of domestic animals. Part of the income received from
the oil sector should be invested in agriculture for the rehabilitation of the
irrigation and drainage canals, and of the countryside in general. An increase
of local production must be actively supported and protected against the
importation of agricultural items that can locally be produced. This policy
must be adhered to in order to revitalise
the agricultural sector. The farming community suffered greatly during the
years of sanctions when the country was totally dependent on imports of
agricultural products and local farmers lost billions of dollars, villages and
our countryside suffered while foreign farmers profited. Any policy to the
contrary should be actively opposed.
of the Current Agriculture Policies:
food subsidies continue the government is following a reckless agricultural
policy that has expanded the ongoing corruption in the country. The policy of
offering prices for agricultural commodities that are higher than those of the
international market has prompted farmers to find means of cheating the system
and double their profits. For example the price of about 700 US$ offered to
farmers for a ton of wheat when its price on the international market is closer
to 300 US$ is too great a temptation way to a small group of local farmers. It
has been widely reported it that more ‘local’ wheat has been taken into the silos
than was actually produced in the country, while others have bought wheat in neighboring
countries for 50% of the price paid within Kurdistan for local wheat, then they
register the grain as being locally produced when it arrives at the silos, so
making a very healthy profit. Meanwhile the government distributing pickup
trucks to farmers at subsidy prices does little to encourage rejuvenation of
the agriculture sector.
objectives, then, are the creation of an advanced, market orientated, and more or
less self reliant farming system, within a relatively short period of time.
in the Agricultural Sector.
following aspects of agricultural institutions should be seriously addressed:
1. Agricultural Research and Extension and
research in Iraq, and also Kurdistan, has been ongoing for over five decades.
Useful information is already at hand that should be translated into practical
applications in the field. As new problems arise, research work needs to be
continued with more emphasis placed on research in the field, in order to introduce
improved techniques to the farmers’ fields. At this stage agricultural research
staff must be involved in order that they become fully aware of newly
introduced technology in all areas of agricultural development.
of agricultural extension staff must become a continued activity that is
developed and expanded, both in theory and in practical field application. The
role of all agricultural institutions must be expanded and involved in the transfer
of technological knowledge to extension staff. Therefore, there must be a
two-direction flow of information in the triangular
research-education-extension set up. In this way all those involved in the
agricultural sector will become aware of what others are doing in the fields of
are a number of research centers in the country that need to be upgraded and
supported in order to become effective in finding new technologies that could
be transferred and applied by farmers in the field. As we anticipate a rainfall
shortage in the future research in irrigation will have a prominent place in
designing a research program to define the limits of irrigation, determination
the water requirements of individual crops, and studies on underground water
supplies. It will be on the basis of the findings of these studies that laws
will be developed and implemented in order to safeguard the integrity of the
water table and subterranean water resources.
availability has become critical in the region and we face reduced river water
levels as Turkey, Iran, and Syria construct dams on the rivers flowing into
Iraq. (Kurdistanfoodsecurity has been informed that the completion of Turkey’s
Aleeso dam in 2013 will result in a drop in levels in the R. Tigris from 20.6
billion cubic metres per year to 9.7 billion cubic metres. In addition Syria
and Iran are constructing dams on other rivers entering Iraq.)
the possibilities of increasing our water storage capacity through the
construction of small dams in the north should be explored we need to minimize
farm water usage. Sprinkler and drip irrigation technology should be introduced
whenever it is feasible to do so but we also need to investigate other ways of maximizing
production from available supplies by the introduction of strains of plants
better suited to arid conditions and the use of mulches.
dependence solely on rain in Kurdistan is in decline as annual rainfall levels
have been on the decline as global temperatures increase. An active program is
needed to finance supplementary irrigation whenever there is a shortfall in the
amount of seasonal rain. In such cases crop yield will increase almost tenfold
when irrigation is used at critical times of plant growth.
2. Animal Production Sector
sector has been well developed through the support it has received from FAO,
which provided feed, vitamins and veterinary care in the past. There was an
active breed improvement campaign through insemination of local cows and this
program should be revitalized. Breeding
and care of small ruminants should also be thoroughly surveyed and breeding
programs initiated. In order to preserve natural range, farmers should be made
aware of the necessity of keeping only such herds that can be supported by
existing range in their vicinity yet there is still the capacity of producing
animals that perform better on the available feed. Dependence on free feed and
water delivery to the herd should become a relic of the past, except in special
circumstances when there is an environmental emergency.
present time in Kurdistan and Iraq only about a quarter of the red meat and
poultry consumed is produced locally. These figures are based on records from
slaughterhouses and poultry producers as there are no reliable statistical
records available and a policy of ‘open border’ that facilitates the
importation of livestock and meat products, both legal and illegal. Indeed,
keeping statistical records in other areas of agriculture and indeed many areas
of trade and production.
for land preparation, harvesting, and crop processing should be introduced on a
larger scale. However, the haphazard use of heavy machinery will cause more
damage if adequate care is not taken in the judicious use of such machinery. It
is essential that the extension
are well trained in the use and maintenance of farm machinery.
in harvesting crops, the unavailability of an adequate transport system, and
lack of proper storage facilities, farmers incur heavy losses in harvests. It
is safe to say that perhaps close
of the harvested crop does not reach the market due to such
Therefore, the supply of adequate harvesting machinery, building on farm
storage capacity, and provision of proper transport facilities would increase levels
of marketed crops and ensure better farm incomes.
of fruit nurseries, where improved mother plants are kept for
producing grafted stock farms, will result in improving the existing fruit tree
varieties. For citrus production, indexing is essential in order to ensure
virus free plants. Currently, many orchards have viral infections that reduce yields
and produce low quality fruits. A campaign to attend to this problem is in
are a number of nurseries spread out at strategic locations that need to be
supported and developed. Such nurseries would produce seedlings that can be
used not only for aesthetic reasons, but also to protect watersheds, decrease
erosion, improve soil water percolation that will improve water aquifers but
also improve the quality of life for both human and wildlife populations.
7. Plant Protection and Weed Control
to increase production levels and to improve the quality of the crops produced,
it is essential that an integrated pest management program is introduced to ensure
control of diseases, insects, and weeds on farm fields. Such operations must be
executed under the control of trained extension staff to insure safety of both
farmers, consumers and the environment.
cooperatives are very important to give farmers greater bargaining powers,
either in marketing their products or purchasing inputs. Currently farmers are
disadvantaged in their efforts to gain fair market prices while most of the
profits end up in the retailers cash boxes. Usual retail prices exceed farm
prices by 3 to 1.
purchasing inputs of feed, fertilizers, machinery or plant protection chemicals,
farmers can gain by buying through their cooperatives to ensure wholesale deals
that are unavailable to individual buyers.
9. The Importance of agro-industries
are industries that use agricultural products as raw material. Oil, sugar,
canned vegetables, dairy farms, cereal processing, animal poultry feed
production and cotton processing are but few examples that rely on agricultural
products. Building agro-industries has multiple advantages among which are the
· Agro-industries will provide food for the population
and feed for
· Agro-industries will provide job opportunities for a
· Agro-industries will make use of farm byproducts,
making the farming operation more profitable, and provide for a clean
· Above all agro-industries will help boost the economy
local production of essential=al items
required by the local
· Agro-industries will further do away with imports of
which sometimes can be unsafe for use by the local
· Agro-industries will support local food security for
10. Opportunities for building Agro-industries
for building agro-industrial outlets abound in Iraq as well as in Kurdistan. In
Kurdistan the plains of Garmian (Kalar, Kifri, etc.) Sharazoor, Rania,
Sharbazher, and the Erbil plains, Aqra, Zakho are important areas where
agro-industries can flourish. Dairy industries can do well in both Sharazoor
(Halabja) and the Rania areas. The same areas can provide for vegetable oil
production such as sunflower oil. In the case of animal feed production there
are many areas that are suitable for growing maize, soybeans, grains and
legumes that could be mixed and prepared as feeds for livestock and poultry.
Agronomist, Internationl Consultant
FAO and WORLD BANK staff