|Land like this and we still import our food.|
In order to coordinate and develop strategies with the aim of initiating meaningful agricultural development projects in the Federal Region of Kurdistan, thereby ensuring food security for the growing population, regulate imports and exports of agricultural commodities in the region, and monitoring the safety of products available to consumers throughout Kurdistan, the establishment of a Supreme Committee for Agriculture Development and Food Security is an absolute necessity.
For the last 6 years the central government in Baghdad has had a Committee for Agriculture Initiative that has been very effective in initiating and developing agriculture in Iraq to a degree. This committee is similar to others throughout the countries of the Middle East and North Africa that have been set up to ensure that each country endeavors to maximize its agricultural output and food security and is also similar to the agricultural committee of the Iraqi government of decades past. Iraq’s current Committee for Agriculture Initiative has an annual budget of US$ 500 million and is chaired by the Prime Minister himself while a similar committee is planned to oversee water resources. Meanwhile the regional government in Kurdistan has not attempted to set up any means of encouraging agricultural development and food security within the region or controlling food imports and no action has been taken on the advice of agricultural experts in the region.
The establishment of a cohesive body involving both government and non-government experts in agriculture, food safety and food security is the tried and proven method of initiating and overseeing agricultural development while increasing the country’s independence in food production. Kurdistan has seen the loss of some of its most productive agricultural land to urban development while there is little incentive to farmers to adopt new agricultural techniques and improve crop production when the market is swamped with cheap, unregulated, imports. The increasing reliance on imported food is not in the best interests of any country let alone one that is landlocked and situated within a region of questionable stability so that revitalizing the agricultural sector and improving the production of home grown produce should be viewed as advantageous. In addition the ever increasing level of international crime involved in the food (and drug) industry necessitates strict adherence to quality and safety checks on imports to ensure that products conform to global standards and the public is not placed at risk.
As a result of discussions and collaboration with eminent Kurdish experts in agriculture, of both regional and international renown, a suggestion for the urgent establishment of a committee for agricultural development in Kurdistan was prepared and submitted to the KRG as follows:
Supreme Council for Agricultural Development, Kurdistan Regional Government-KRG
This Committee will lay down appropriate policies for the adoption of modern production technologies to ensure food security for the population living within Kurdistan.
I. Detailed make up of the Committee:
a. The Committee will be chaired by the President or the Prime Minister, with the Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources as his Deputy.
b. Other members will include:
1. An agriculture economist
2. A water and irrigation specialist
3. A field crop specialist with expertise in research and extension.
4. A livestock production specialist
5. A soils and land usage specialist
6. A forestry and range management expert
7. The Head of the Environment Organization)
8. An environmentalist (NGO)
9. A food safety expert
10. A fruit and vegetable specialist
11. An agro-industrial specialist
12. An agricultural mechanization specialist
13. An expert in agriculture or veterinary education
c. At the Committee’s first meeting an Executive Secretary will be selected from among its members. The Executive Secretary will supervise the overall functions of the Committee, arrange meetings, (with the agreement of the Chairman or his Deputy), prepare the Committee’s agenda, keeps the minutes, and follow up the Committee’s decisions.
d. In addition to the permanent members, who could include departmental heads from the Ministry of Agriculture the Chairman, or his deputy, may invite specialists who are well known for their expertise in their specialist field of agriculture for consultation. Invitation may be extended to specific consultants, either Iraqi or non Iraqi, who are employed within Iraq by local or foreign firms either within or outside Iraq, to assist in the formulation of specific projects that the Committee wishes to adopt. Such members will be compensated for their time spent with the Committee and for all other expenses as allowed by law. Further, the Committee may invite to its meetings a Member of Parliament responsible for overseeing agricultural activities for parliament.
e. All decisions made by the Committee are binding to all the Ministries and Institutes within the Kurdistan Federal Region, In any case of variance with Committee’s decision, parliament will be the arbitrator in such decisions and will have the final say on such matters.
f. The Committee must have financial resources and a budget, a few administration staff and an office to accommodate these staff together with transport facilities provided under the auspices of the Prime Minister’s Office. The Committee’s office could be located in the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources.
II. The Duties of the Committee:
a. Review and amend where required The 5 years(2009-2013) Strategic Plan for Agriculture and Water in a logical, chronological sequence with initial priority given to necessary research/extension and education sectors. Decisions can be made to put into action projects from within the remaining time sequence of the plan that are deemed to be workable.
b. Review the structure of the MOAWR to establish the roles of its staff and produce job descriptions. The recommendations for restructuring of the MOAWR that are to go before Parliament could be reviewed by the Committee beforehand.
c. The large quantities of food imports into the country make food safety mechanisms imperative. An agency for food safety, capable of movement between ministries, must be formed to oversee the enforcement of food safety.
d. The Committee should be informed of any proposed importations of staples such as wheat, red meat and poultry, oil, rice, vegetables and fruit. The agreement for importation should not be left to the authority of a sole civil servant.
e. The Oil for Food Program in Kurdistan must be reviewed.
f. Make decisions on agricultural loans through agricultural banks to the farming communities and facilitate the terms of such loans.
g. A liaison network must be established between the KRG Ministries and the central government offices in Baghdad and, if required, members of the Committee could be utilized by the central government.
h. The Committee should become aware of the activities of all international organizations operating in the fields of food security, water, forestry, environmental matters, food safety and the agriculture and veterinary services.
i. In addition the Committee should assist the Agriculture and Veterinary syndicates to execute their duties properly.
j. Assist the parliamentary agriculture committee with its tasks
III. Reasons for establishing this Committee
The current dismal rate of agricultural production in Kurdistan, and large quantities of imports require immediate attention, not only for the safety of the Kurdish population, but also for ensuring a degree of food security levels in the face of an increasing world population and future worries that food items required by the Kurdish population may not be available. If the latter situation arose the Region’s security could be compromised and its freedom jeopardized.
We need to develop the agriculture to ensure food security and to revive the countryside. Villages cannot be rejuvenated if they have no products and no funds will flow into the countryside without agriculture production. It is a dangerous policy to depend on oil revenues to pay for the nation’s food while ignoring local agricultural production. We need to invest the oil money into agricultural advancement through adoption of modern technology to increase crop yields.
However the most important factor in supporting agriculture is through its influence on decreasing unemployment rates which are escalating among our youth. The current unemployment rate is close to 60%, and in addition every office is over employing staff resulting in what is referred to as ‘covered unemployment’. A large number of these staff do little work, or even ignore going to their assigned locations as they get bored because there is not enough work to occupy them.
Supporting the agriculture sector decreases the rate of unemployment, creates a healthy and a happier society and in addition to ensures local food security and the rejuvenation of the villages that will benefit from the increased production and receipt of funds for the crops, fruits and animals and other agricultural products that they bring to the local market.
The Committee then reviews agricultural policies, initiates useful projects, decides on establishing useful agro industries, and oversees environmental protection in Kurdistan.
The above suggestion was submitted to the KRG on more than one occasion but no action has been taken and our agricultural output has seen no improvement.