Tuesday 12 January 2016

Agriculture In Kurdistan

By; Talib Murad Ali

Historically, Sudan was described as the food basket of the  Arab Countries and Kurdistan also was described as the food basket of Iraq. However Sudan is now the biggest receiver of food aid from the WFP and 5.6 million people in the country are listed as receiving this UN agencys handouts.

For almost three decades I worked in Africa, mainly in North and East Africa I always attributed Sudans problems to the lethargy of the Sudanese and the mismanagement of the corrupted rulers in Khartoum. It is rather surprising that a border line, demarcated as a straight line by English surveyors many decades ago, separates not just the countries of Sudan and Egypt but it also separates the different attitudes of the two nations to work and production. Sudan was described as the food basket as it has every thing needed for agriculture, and is rich in water, fertile land and its environment. Sudan has some 120 million head of ruminants, almost half the number to be found in all the Arab Countries put together. Yet with all this wealth of livestock Sudan is  importing a large  quantity of dry milk to feed its population as the herds of native cattle(30 millions) are not good milk producers and  they are maintained away from the urban areas where the milk is needed . As a Regional Livestock Officer for FAO, with responsibility for the Water Buffalo Network for Southern Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, I believed that the water buffalo offered a solution to the milk deficit for the urban people in Sudan. North of the Sudanese border almost 3.5 million head of water buffalo provide meat, milk and ghee for Egypt yet in Sudan there are no water buffalo. I endeavoured for 8 years to introduce the water buffalo to the country, travelling between Cairo and Khartoum, meeting ministers who always seemed to agree with me, and yet when I obtained funding for a model buffalo farm to be developed in the country the government resolutely refused the project.
I believe that the future for agriculture in Sudan is very bleak and that the same can be said of other countries in our region. There are three reasons for this, firstly the mass movements of people brought
about by civil strife, secondly the discovery of oil in the region has never been used to support the development of the agricultural sector but rather that the reverse occurred. Thirdly Sudan is now on the slippery path of giving away its precious agricultural land to any foreigner who comes with a ready offer. The latter includes the tiny Gulf States, who now are supposed to develop Sudans agriculture, yet lack the knowledge to do so. The track record of the Gulf States does not stand up to scrutiny as these countries had a scarce and precious reserve of ground water that they have managed to fritter away.
The same Gulf States have already gained a foothold in farmlands in many countries including Turkey, into which they have poured some 11 Billion $ in the last few months, and this is expected to be doubled soon. While other countries in third world reject this form of neo-colonisation, the people of Turkey and Sudan have not shown any concern. This lack of concern may be attributed to the fact that both countries have plentiful water sources in their rivers which they view as sellable commodity with no consideration for countries down stream.
These farmland acquired by GCC in Turkey are not far way from the water sources of  the Tigris and Euphrates and the impact that  this will have on the water supply of Kurdistan and the whole of  Iraq remains to be seen.
At time of writing Tigris and Euphrates bring approx 14 billion cu.m. of water annually. While the 44 minor rivers and streams that flow form Iran ceased to flow while rainfall is no longer predictable. It is an accepted fact that every one million head of human population requires 1 billion cu. m. of water annually with an ever growing population Iraq and Kurdistan face major problem. It is essential that action is taken to safeguard the country water and ensure optimum use of both land and water for the countries agriculture.

Agriculture In Iraq
The 9 million Hectares of agriculture land in Iraq has fail to produce food for the Iraqis to a degree that most of the population are depending on the ration handout. Annually 4-5 Billion US $ spent by the Ministry of Trade to buy essential food ingredient e.g. Flour, Rice, Oil and sugar.
Agriculture currently provides about 8 percent of Iraq’s GDP and less than 20 percent of employment, and supports a rural population of 7 million people. The sector has declined since the 1980s and is underperforming. Over the last fifteen years, agricultural production dropped by an average of 1.1 percent per year, and per capita agricultural production declined by about 3.9 percent per year. Productivity of the main cereal crops—wheat, barley, and rice—has fallen dramatically. Most of the country’s  food requirement is imported.
Under the sanctions regime, a Public Food Distribution System (PFDS), which provided food rations to all Iraqis, attempted to support food security at the household level, but fell short of ensuring adequate nutrition to most of the population.
 The land of Mesopotamia has not come to this bleak situation overnight but this is the consequence of decade of negate in gross mismanagements intensified by  the sacrifice of its environmental and agricultural assets in pursuit of wars. The loss of the southern marshes with their water buffalos, reed beds, fish, waterfowl, and wild life is considered to be one of the biggest environmental catastrophes in the world. The huge fruit orchards in the east of the country which were renowned for their production of pomegranates, figs and citrus fruits suffered water shortages resulting from bad diplomacy with Iran over half a century e.g. as in Mandeli and its surrounding area. During the war with Iran many of the orchard keepers left the area or were deported to Iran and any of the orchards were clear felled. Lands in central Iraq and the southwest suffered from increasing salinity resulting from irrigation and mismanagement which was never addressed and land was left fallow. However this it self was disastrous as the poor drainage resulted in further salination. In the  north, previously the food basket the situation was graver with over 5,000 villages demolished, their water sources destroyed and the population killed, displaced or forced to live in camps. The two Gulf wars had a further severe effect as the soldiers that were conscripted to fight came from the rural communities, being farmers, shepherds, butchers and fishermen and many failed to return to village life after the wars but remained in the towns the village life had been destroyed.
 Since the establishment of the government of modern Iraq, some 80 years ago, there has never been any attempt made to form a recognised, legal, water treaty between Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran. However, Egypt formed such a treaty in 1929 receiving exclusive rights to the waters of the Nile in the Nile Water Treaty that was signed by Lloyd George on behalf of the other 9 countries through which the river flows. One may argue that the situation was different in each case and that a gentlemans agreement and a goodwill announcement is sufficient but this cannot ensure Iraqs future when its neighbours can increase their demands on a shared water source to which Iraq has no legal right.

A few months ago the Head of Nestle International said that water will dry up before the oil reserves do (Independent, 9.8.2009). If one considers the countries of the Middle East the oil rich Gulf States do not have water so the obvious inference is to Iraq.

World Wide Chalange  
Major new global trend: land (and water) grabbing is part of a deep and aggressive restructuring of agriculture
·       Wrong answer to food crisis: with land grabbing, small farmers
are now “the problem” and large foreign-owned farms “the          solution”
·       Bringing massive new implantation of large scale agribusiness
           operations for export, run by “Southern” landlords or financial
·       With land, way too much is at stake
·       In total contradiction with food security, not to mention food
·       "We need a people's politics and a people's voice to stop
landgrabbing" said social movements at the CSO Forum on                     Food Sovereignty in Rome, November 2009
·       Food crisis → “Farming abroad” now seen as new food supply strategy by import-dependent governments
·       Financial crisis → Farmland now seen as new source of profits by the finance industry
·       Focus: Staple foods, not mangoes or coffee
·       More than 50 countries targeted by maybe 1,000 investment groups and a dozen or so governments.
·       World Bank says 50m ha – nearly half the cropland of China – signed away or under negotiation in Africa, Asia, LatAm since 2006. FAO says 20m ha in Africa alone. GRAIN think they're missing a lot.
·       GRAIN (US NGO) estimates that US$100 billion have already been mobilised to pay for these deals. (World Bank says US$50 billion.)
·       Wider context: Major push right now to expand and restructure global agribusiness in the South, with a strong influx of Southern capital (UNCTAD: 40% of cross-border investment in ag production in 2008 was South-South.)
·       Reuters (11.11. 2009) repotted; Iraq is closed to concluding multi-billion dollar agriculture deal with private sector firm in the UAE to lease farmland on a long term basis. This agreement will classify Iraq as one of the 50 poorer countries targeted by land grabbers from the GCC.
·       Iraq also is listed as one of the Low-Income Food Deficit Countries (LIFDC). The list contain 77 Countries(FAO, May,2009)

International Support for Agriculture
For most of the past 25 years, investment in agriculture has declined relentlessly. In 2005 most developing countries were investing only around 5% of public revenue in farming. The share of western aid going to agriculture fell by around three-quarters between 1980 and 2006(Economist 21.11.2009).

Agriculture and food security have become “the core of the international agenda”, as the G8 called it. In 2009, the World Bank increased its spending on agriculture by 50%, to $6 billion. The Islamic Development Bank is creating an agriculture department for the first time.

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