Fighting pests in Iraq's no-fly zones


When large areas of Iraq's cereal and date-palm crops were attacked by pests in 1995, an insurmountable problem blocked control efforts: because of UN sanctions established after the war in the Persian Gulf, the country's planes were not allowed to fly over designated zones in the northern and southern parts of the country, so pesticides could not be sprayed on the fields in these areas.

Iraq appealed to FAO, as a neutral third party, to solve the problem and save the crops, which are staples of the Iraqi diet. With funding from several countries and DHA, FAO carried out a complicated emergency relief operation in May and June 1996. The operation involved obtaining approval from the United Nations Sanctions Committee to use non-Iraqi pilots, to import pesticides and to use helicopter spare parts held in storage to maintain the helicopters needed for the spraying.

Some 97 500 ha of cereals and more than 36 000 ha of date plantation were sprayed in the "no-fly" zones. Flying time totalled some 430 hours. The value of crops saved as a result of the aerial spraying was estimated at US$7.3 million. A second spraying campaign, carried out in May and June 1997, resulted in yield increases of wheat and dates estimated to be worth about US$35 million.

In December 1996, the United Nations Sanctions Committee approved an oil-for-food programme allowing Iraq to export oil and import food and agricultural inputs. In the northern part of the country, where the UN is managing imports under the programme, FAO has been charged with the responsibility for assessment of agricultural requirements, procurement of inputs and monitoring of inputs distribution. As of mid-1997, the value of inputs procured and under delivery in the north amounted to US$18 million.


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