The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Program (WFP) in Iraq on Monday issued a joint statement on the occasion of World Food Day on the future of agriculture and food security in Iraq.
The statement was issued amid a drought hitting Iraq for the fourth consecutive year and an arbitrary water policy by upstream countries (Türkiye and Iran) towards Iraq.
Both agencies called for urgent action to address the root causes of the current food and water security crisis amid the “unlimited” challenges facing the world, including Iraq.
“Iraq has been experiencing increased drought for the past two years, brought on by rising temperatures, reduced rainfall which is the lowest in 40 years, in addition to reduced water flows in the Tigris and Euphrates” , the statement said.
“This has led to degradation of arable land, increased water and soil salinity, all of which contribute to severe loss of livelihoods and increased pressure on the national state budget. , which imports grain to ensure that enough food is available for the population”.
The statement quotes the WFP’s representative in Iraq, Ali Raza Qureshi, saying that Iraq remains one of the countries most affected in the world by the adverse effects of climate change.
He warned that unless mitigation and adaptation are implemented, the future may not be bright for smallholder farmers and vulnerable groups in the country.
“We at WFP believe that food is the pathway to peace and as such, the government and the international community must take serious action immediately to adopt climate-smart food systems and build long-term resilience. to ensure that Iraq and its people are able to navigate these testing times,” he said.
The statement noted that 20% of Iraq’s workforce works in the agricultural sector, which is the second largest contributor to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) after the oil sector, accounting for 5% of total GDP.
Thus, he underlined that the development of agriculture is essential to enable Iraq to achieve its vision of a more diversified economy, in addition to creating jobs and stimulating private sector engagement.
Iraq’s water resources ministry complains that it is not receiving enough funds to upgrade the irrigation system, which would reduce wastage of the already scarce water.
He also criticizes the lack of response from upstream countries (Türkiye and Iran) to his request to hold talks on the issue of water and the drought that Iraq is facing.
Ministry adviser Aoun Dhiab told Iraqi news agency INA on Sunday that the two neighboring countries had not responded to any request to discuss the amounts of water entering Iraq.
He said the issue had been raised in high-level meetings, the latest of which was during the UN General Assembly meeting.
Activists and specialists have recently launched a major campaign to save drought-threatened wetlands.
According to water and swamp affairs expert Jassim al-Asadi, the campaign aims to reveal the current conditions of the swamps, such as drought, poor water management and lack of government support.
Local officials in the marshes point to the significant decline of these areas, in addition to the migration of dozens of families from rural areas to the city due to drought and lack of pasture, all of which have led to the deterioration of agriculture. and the death of large numbers of buffaloes and cows.