Farmers in Diyala province point out their drought stricken fields
Iraq continues to feel the effects of one of the worst droughts in decades. Grain production is way down. Iraq needs 5 million tons of wheat, but has only grown around 1.5 million. It also needs 1 million tons of rice, but has only produced 150,000 tons. The lack of water has also led to a massive sell off of livestock, as there’s not enough feed for them. The International Red Cross announced at the end of September 2008 that it would by offering $6 million in aid to Kurdistan, one of the areas hardest hit by the drought. The plan is to work on water and food projects. That money wouldn’t arrive until March 2009 however.
Other areas affected have been Tamim, Ninewa, Qadisiyah and Diyala. In the last, there have been reports that farmers have been hit so hard that they are abandoning their villages because there’s no water to harvest their crops. In one village, Iraqi and U.S. forces found only three to four families, out of the original thirty to forty.
Baghdad’s response has not been up to the task so far. The Trade Ministry plans on spending $5 billion on importing food to make up for the shortage caused by the drought, but because of rising international prices, that’s not expected to be enough to meet demand. Even though it is awash in cash from oil profits, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government has no plans to increase the amount of money spent on food imports. The government has also been working on some small-scale projects to alleviate the problem, but nothing that has had a large impact. The drought has a double impact because farming is the largest employer in the country, providing 25-40% of all work. As usual, the lack of a government response has been blamed on bureaucracy, corruption, and security. Another factor seems to be little interest in the problem right now.
For more on the drought see:
Drought Update II
Buzbee, Sally, “Drought threatens Iraq’s crops and water supply,” Associated Press, 7/10/08
Haynes, Deborah, “Iraqis hunt for insurgents in Diyala unearths only ghost towns and drought,” Times of London, 7/29/08
al-Jumaili, Hazem, “Sharp drop in grain yields in Iraq,” Azzaman, 9/25/08
Nelson, Soraya Sarhaddi, “Farming Is Latest Casualty In Drought-Stricken Iraq,” Morning Edition, NPR, 8/6/08
UPI, “ICRC grants $6M in drought relief for Iraq,” 9/26/08
Zavis, Alexandra, “First violence, now drought threatens Iraq farmers,” Los Angeles Times, 6/26/08
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