Iraq's farmers watch drought kill 90 per cent of wheat crops

Report by Norwegian Refugee Council calls on world powers to increase Iraq's access to climate resilience

Iraq's northeastern city of Sulaimaniyah in the autonomous Kurdistan region has been experiencing bouts of drought due to a mix of factors including lower rainfall and diversion of inflowing rivers from Iran.  AFP
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About 25 per cent of Iraq’s farmers have seen almost all their wheat crops fail this year due to drought, a report has found.

Farmers surveyed said they witnessed up to 90 per cent of their wheat crop fail this year as a direct result of water shortages, affecting thousands of lives, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) said on Monday.

Due to severe drought conditions across Iraq, farming communities have seen their wheat, vegetable and fruit harvests decline for the second year in a row.

It is known that a combination of bad ownership by local investors, government neglect, corruption and climate change has affected Iraq's agricultural sector over the years.

NRC surveyed a quarter of the 1,341 households across five governorates in Iraq this year and said it estimated more than “90 per cent of wheat failure this season as a direct result of water shortages across those interviewed”.

“We are seeing the continued damage from Iraq’s climate and water crisis,” NRC’s Iraq country director James Munn said in a statement.

“People are witnessing their fertile land and crops vanishing year after year,” Mr Munn said. "The lands that have fed a nation are drying up fast."

The report warned that if conditions continued to cause drastic damage to crops and harvests, the country's "farming communities will be forced from their lands to urban areas in search of alternative sources of income".

One in three families living in areas of Iraq hardest-hit by drought had to reduce the area of land in which they plant, resulting in heavy loss of crops and income.

Iraq's northeastern city of Sulaimaniyah in the autonomous Kurdistan region has been experiencing bouts of drought due to a mix of factors including lower rainfall and diversion of inflowing rivers from Iran.  AFP

Four out of 10 said they had harvested less wheat, barley, fruit and vegetables this year compared with last year, said the report.

One of the main problems stems from Iran and Turkey building large dams to solve their own lack of water, diverting it from Iraq in the process.

Iraq has attempted to talk to both neighbours about this issue but co-operation has been patchy.

Iraqi villagers say they have felt the effects of reduced volumes from Iran for years, complaining that it has had a punishing effect on communities downstream, especially during increasingly frequent years of drought.

A combine harvester at the middle of a wheat field harvesting crops in Yousifiyah, Iraq. AP

The NRC has called on the international community to increase "Iraq’s access to climate resilience funding and ramp up diplomatic efforts to ensure fair regional transboundary water flows to the Euphrates and Tigris rivers".

"The Iraqi government should also increase investment in water management and infrastructure development to improve water quantity and quality for farming communities and their future livelihoods."

Updated: October 26, 2022, 3:13 PM
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