Monday 26 January 2015

Let us Keep Kurdistan Safe by Jamal Fuad

Let us Keep Kurdistan Safe
Jamal Fuad, Ph.D. Retiree
Senior Agricultural Consultant
FAO and the World Bank
January 20, 2015

Events of the past few years should alert us that we are not immune to threats from outside. Such threats could dangerously affect us, and thwart us on the road to prosperity and eventual statehood. They show us collectively that we are not as safe as we think we are. Examples are many: For one, the central Iraqi government has stopped payment of salaries to the staff of the Kurdish Regional Government(KRG),and to its contractors for over a year, creating serious economic and financial difficulties. It has delayed many developmental projects, increased un-employment and brought about inflation in the cost of living. Contractors have stopped working on the ongoing projects for lack of funds.

A second concern is the arrival of an Islamic terrorist group to our borders that are carrying out a vicious and a barbaric war against our citizens. They have been kidnapping, murdering, looting, and destroying towns and villages, forcefully evicting its residents. Their vicious atrocities have created havoc among our citizens, and those of Syria who have run away from their towns and villages. These people, about one million and a half, have now been given asylum in Kurdistan and make up the third and serious concern for KRG.

In dealing with these problems, Baghdad government and our neighboring countries have shown but little concern. On the contrary, they are suspected of having invited such terrorists to carry on a war of attrition against the KRG. They aim at thwarting our political ambition and our desire to live in peace and prosperity, as if we have not suffered enough in the past to acts of abuse and torture, mass relocation, the Anfal Campaign, the use of chemical weapon, and endangering the lives of our people by laying millions of landmines in our countryside. We would like now to focus on our future. We aspire of providing a better quality of life for our people through provision of adequate infra structure, such as water and electricity, better education, better health system, and above all safeguarding our national freedom and security.

We must realize that we are extremely vulnerable. As a land-locked country, and with such unfriendly neighbors, we must stay alert and set out a plan to safeguard our national security. Above all we must try to be self-sufficient as much as possible to guard against any outside threats to our young democracy. Besides strengthening our national defense system, we need a serious attempt at insuring our food security. Without food security we cannot guarantee the national security. We do have plenty of oil. Unfortunately oil cannot be a substitute. That is why we need a serious plan to rejuvenate and prioritize the agricultural sector. Without food security we will always be under the mercy of our neighbors, limiting thus our political and economic freedoms. To avoid any future threats from outside, more of the oil money needs to be directed at supporting the agricultural sector. At presents we rely for almost 100% for our food and feed needs, on imports of agricultural products from many sources, but specifically more from our neighboring countries. We cannot rely on such a system, which is unreliable and is a threat to our future.

Kurdistan is rich in its natural endowment. We have suitable climate, sufficient fertile land and water unmatched by any other Middle Eastern country. We can produce just about every agricultural product that we need. We can do without imports of carrots from Australia, dairy products from Turkey, and onions and potatoes from Iran, or meats from Brazil. We have the water, the land, and the climate that supports production of all these items.

Unfortunately, due to past vicious policies of the Iraqi Government: relocating farmers, executing the Anfal Campaign, destroying farming infrastructure, etcetera, the agricultural activities had come to a standstill since the 1980’s. Under Government pressure large numbers of farmers had abandoned their farms and migrated to neighboring towns and cities. Further, the wrong implementation of the UN oil-for-food program put the last nail in the coffin of the agricultural sector. Later, and after normalization of the political situation in 2003, farmers were not ready to return to their lands anymore. Some farmers were just too old. Others had already settled in the towns and cities of Kurdistan, reluctant to once again disturb their family life. Neither the younger generation has any desire in returning to their villages, as they had become accustomed to city life and knew nothing about farming. Additionally, the KRG had no planned gave no encouragement and support to returning farmers. In effect, activities in the agricultural sector had come to a complete stop.

To rejuvenate the agricultural sector, massive funding is required to bring the farming sector out of the middle ages. We first need emphasis on the training of the farmers and the agricultural staff in the modern art of farming practices: use of better animal breeds, better quality seeds, appropriate use of insect and disease control measures, improved farming methodology, use of more machinery, better storage and marketing practices, are but few examples of modern practices. Further, provision of agricultural credit is vital to upgrade farming operation. Encouraging farmers to join agricultural cooperatives is important factor to facilitate collective bargaining in the marketing of agricultural products and in the purchase of animal feed, improved seeds, and agricultural machinery, and other needs for the farms.

An effective way to boost agricultural production is through establishment of multiple agro-industrial enterprises in specific agricultural locations. For example, where cereal crops are grown we can build agro-industries set up to make macaroni and other pasta. Similarly, where fruits and vegetables thrive, we can produce juices and canned fruits and vegetables, while dairy factories can be set up where cattle is in abundance. Initially, and only for a limited time, the government must be ready to buy every product that is being used for such agro-industries. Applying this policy will encourage farmers to grow the desired crop, as they are assured of its marketability. In addition to the fact that agro-industries will provide for locally needed agricultural products, it also has the advantage of providing jobs to our people, thus decreasing the current high rate of unemployment and decrease the desire of the young unemployed graduates to migrate. Unemployment brings about an unhappy society and can cause social unrest which we can do without.

The price paid to the farmers for the purchase of their crops for use in the agro-industrial enterprises should not exceed the international price, minus the cost of transport from the country of origin to Kurdistan. The current policy of paying wheat growers three times the international price is unwarranted and has led to corruption in the highest levels. It allows merchants to import of wheat from outside of the country, and deliver it to the silos as a local product. Such a practice brings a profit of three times per ton above the price paid for the wheat imported. As a lucrative trade, many might attempt at such a practice. This policy is un-affordable, economically unsustainable, and totally wrong. As stated earlier international price should be the base, and again money saved from this uneconomic pricing should be used for imports of agricultural needs of the farmers.

World population is steadily on the rise, and as the climate is getting warmer and rainfall on the decline, per capita land availability for agriculture is also declining worldwide. World food and feed prices are on the rise. A time is near when certain food and feed items might not be always available, due to expected demand. Such factors require that we pay more attention to the agricultural sector. To depend solely on the oil revenue for our annual budgetary needs is ill advised.

Here, I would like to emphasize that it was agriculture, and not oil, that created the great civilizations of China, Babylon and Egypt. It was also agriculture, not oil, that created the United State of America to become the leading world political, economic and financial power. Where agriculture flourishes, so do every other art. Agriculture has always been the backbone of developing civilizations, as it has provided not only food and feed, but also raw material for the evolving industries. It is unfortunate that we see many oil producing countries neglect the agricultural sector, all of whom face social unrest and face disintegration such we observe in Yemen, Libya, Nigeria, to mention but a few. It seems that there is a curse on every country that is dependent on oil for its budgetary needs.

I have written on this subject before. Unfortunately, no action has been taken to prioritize the agricultural sector. The ongoing political and financial turmoil that is currently sweeping the region is proof that we should urgently take a look at the sector. We must take immediate action to provide the means for needed rejuvenation. To depend on our neighbors for imports of agricultural products is not the right policy, as it endangers our future. The Kurdish proverb, "If you wait for your neighbor to feed you, you most likely remain hungry”. Let us heed to this folklore.

The Kurdish Administration, the KRG, has done many good deeds in the Region since 2004, especially in the sectors of Oil, Real Estate, Roads and Telecommunication, and tying Kurdistan to the main center of the world community through building many airports in in the main population centers in Iraqi Kurdistan. Such airports has been effective means that has facilitated connection of Kurdistan to development Center of the World. However, there remains much to be done in the sectors of Education, Health, electricity, and the Agricultural Sector which is the main theme of this article. 

Supporting the agricultural sector will promote a healthy life to our villages. Without having a marketable product, a village cannot survive and will eventually disappear. Currently, only the unemployed farmers visit their villages, mostly on weekends. The time has come to put a healthy life back into our devastated villages.

We should realize that money saved from the decreasing the agricultural imports can very well finance the infrastructure requirement of our villages. The time has come to take a serious look at the agricultural sector. It is unfortunate that past budgetary allocations for the sector in Kurdistan has been less than 1%.The international organizations, the World Bank and the FAO, have suggested that it should be no less than 10% of the national budget. The discrepancy is obvious.

The time to act is NOW.

Let us keep Kurdistan Safe

Friday 16 January 2015


A ProMED-mail post

Date: Wed 14 Jan 2015
A total of 13 cases suspected of being H5N1 bird-flu positive have
been quarantined in the Nile Delta city of Menoufiya [governorate],
the director of preventive medicine department said on Wednesday [14
Jan 2015].
Samples from the suspected patients will be sent for analysis at the
central labs, Department Director, Reda Aish, said.
A 65-year-old woman from Assiut governorate died in hospital earlier
on Wednesday [14 Jan 2015; see ProMED-mail post Avian influenza, human
(10): Egypt H5N1, China H7N9 (SZ, Mainland) 20150114.3093018 - Mod.LK]
after being diagnosed with H5N1, the health ministry announced.
At least 12 people have contracted the virus this year [2015]; 2 cases
have died, 7 remain under treatment, and 3 have recovered, the health
ministry said.
Infection is usually centered in rural areas, where citizens,
especially women, frequently come in direct contact with live
The World Health Organisation warned that there is a risk of human
infection when the virus is circulating in poultry, especially to
those in infected environments.


A ProMED-mail post
Date: Wed 14 Jan 2015

Source: Pakistan Today

Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF) was confirmed in 2
under-treatment patients in Civil Hospital Karachi [Sindh province],
it was learnt on Wednesday [14 Jan 2015].
An official of Civil Hospital Karachi confirmed that 2 patients with
high-grade fever were brought in the general ward of hospital for
treatment about a week ago and their blood samples were sent to the
National Institute of Health (NIH), Islamabad.
He said the NIH report confirmed that both the patients, 60-year-old
men, were suffering from Congo fever [CCHF]. He said one of them was
isolated from the other patient, while the 2nd person was discharged
from the hospital even before confirmation report was received to the
hospital administration as his condition had improved.
He said Congo [CCHF] is a deadly viral disease spread through a
tick-bite found on animals. He said people who deal with dairy farming
and livestock were most likely to catch the disease. He said symptoms
of [Crimean-] Congo viruMedical Superintendent, Prof Saeed Qureshi, when contacted, said
[Crimean-] Congo fever was confirmed in 2 male admitted patients on
[13 Jan 2015] evening and a patient isolated from other patients. He,
however, said that the hospital administration contacted with a
patient who was discharged from healthcare, but he refused to return
back and said: "he is better now".s [infections] were high-fever, dizziness,
neck pain, backache, muscle aches, sore eyes, nausea, and vomiting and
stomach pain. He said these symptoms of disease generally appear 3-4
days after exposure to ticks.
 He said panic was spreading among admitted patients, doctors, nurses
and paramedical staff after hearing the news that 2 Congo [CCHF]
patients remained with them in the general ward. He said patients with
dengue, [Crimean-] Congo and other hemorrhagic fevers must be kept in
the isolation ward as these viral diseases can transform [sic;
transmit] into other patients if strict protective step are not
[Sporadic cases of Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF) occurred in
various parts of Pakistan last year (2014). Last year, 17 cases of
CCHF were reported in the country, with 9 of them in Sindh province.
Circumstances under which the 2 patients acquired their CCHF virus
infections is not stated in the above report. They probably acquired
the infection via a tick bite or exposure to the blood of an infected
animal. The virus can cause severe viral hemorrhagic fever outbreaks,
with a case fatality rate of 10-40 per cent. The virus is transmitted
by _Hyalomma_ spp ticks or through contact with infected human blood
or animal blood and tissues during and immediately after slaughter.
The majority of cases have occurred in people involved in the
livestock industry, such as agricultural workers, slaughterhouse
workers, and veterinarians. Exposure in health care facilities can
occur also. The length of the incubation period depends on the mode of
acquisition of the virus. Following infection by a tick bite, the
incubation period is usually 1-3 days, with a maximum of 9 days.
CCHF virus is a tickborne virus in the genus _Nairovirus_, family

Thursday 15 January 2015

'Major consequences' if olive disease spreads across EUامراض اشجار الزيتون قادمه من اوربا

By Mark KinverEnvironment reporter, BBC News
A virulent pathogen that starves olive trees poses a serious threat to EU olive production, experts have warned.
"Major consequences", such as reduced yields and costly control measures, would be the outcome if it spreads to other olive producing regions.
It is already affecting a vast area in southern Italy and, as it has numerous hosts and vectors, the bacterium is expected to spread further.
The dire warning was made in a report by the European Food Safety Authority.
'Major risk'
It observed that the bacterium responsible for "rapid decline" in the olive plantations outbreak, Xylella fastidiosa, presented "a major risk to the EU territory".
"It has the potential to cause disease in the risk assessment area once it establishes as hosts are present and the environmental conditions are favourable," the risk assessment added.
"X. fastidiosa may affect several crops in Europe - such as citrus, grapevine and stone fruit (almond, peach, plum) - but also several tree and ornamental plants, for example oak, sycamore and oleander."
Outbreaks in North and South America highlighted the potential severity of the pathogen.
"It can certainly spread very quickly," explained Stephen Parnell, an epidemiologist from the University of Salford and a member of a working group that contributed to the assessment by the EFSA Panel on Plant Health.
"In Brazil, for example, where the bacterium is a problem on citrus trees, it went from just a handful of infected trees to two million infected trees in just five years," he told BBC News.
Dr Parnell explained that there were hundreds of plant species known to host the bacterium, many of which occurred in Europe.
But, he added: "There is a degree of uncertainty surrounding the epidemiological importance of these species.
"For an epidemic, you need the bacteria, you need vector populations, you need suitable hosts and you need the right environmental conditions.
"All of these things do occur in Europe, but there is some uncertainty regarding to what extent."
Hitchhiker vectors
The outbreak in the Puglia region was first reported in October 2013, where almond and oleander plants also tested positive for the pathogen.
Biosecurity measures were imposed, prohibiting the movement of propagation material from susceptible host species from the infected area.
Although the outbreak is now described as officially under control, Dr Parnell said concern remained that it could spread further as a result of the long-range spread of vectors.
The risk assessment report observed: "All xylem fluid-feeding insects in Europe are considered to be potential vectors."
Xylem is the part of a plant that transports water and nutrients from the root system to the rest of a plant.
If an insect is carrying the bacteria when it feeds on the tree, the pathogen will be able to infect the plant's life-support system.
Dr Parnell said that some of the potential vector species were like "hitchhikers".
"They can attach themselves to vehicles and be spread long distances," he explained. "They can also be transported long distances on the wind."
He added that there was also concern that there could be new introductions from outside the EU via the trade in plant material, which was suspected of being the most likely source of the Puglia outbreak.
But there was another factor in an already complex situation: "The pathogen also has a period when the host plant can be infectious but not actually showing symptoms, making it very difficult to detect.
"So there is a high chance that it could come over the border and not be noticed."
In terms of controlling the pathogen's spread, Dr Parnell said methods that worked to control outbreaks in the Americas probably would not be as effective in Europe.
"The difficulty with that is that although there are suitable environmental conditions, hosts and vectors in Europe, the epidemiological significance of these factors are not really known," he explained.
"Although we can look at what was successful in these areas in California and Brazil, I don't think you can directly map what worked there to Europe because there are different environmental factors, different host populations etc."

He concluded: "Is it fair to say that people need to learn more about the European outbreak quickly because the likelihood of another outbreak hotspot is quite high."