Farmers and herders in Iraq in dire need of support

Agricultural rehabilitation gets under way, but $38.5 million still needed to protect livelihoods, food production

10 November 2014, Rome/Cairo - Wheat seeds, fertilizer and animal feed are starting to roll out to nearly 28,000 farming families in Iraq whose livelihoods have been left in tatters as a result of hostilities -- part of an FAO effort aimed at reinforcing food production and helping people recover. But the Organization is warning that an additional $38.5 million in support is urgently needed to prevent the country's agricultural sector from collapsing and an already-worrisome food security situation from further degenerating.

Thousands of Iraqi farmers have been forced to flee their lands or have had their assets destroyed or seized. Others have seen markets for their crops disappear, or have sold off livestock, supplies and equipment to make ends meet.

As a result of these disruptions, June's harvest was severely compromised, reducing food availability across the country – currently an estimated 2.8 million people in Iraq are in need of food assistance. This situation could worsen as families continue to lose productive assets and income opportunities, or find themselves forced to unload livestock for quick cash.  

“If not addressed in time, this will translate into longer-term reliance on food aid and other forms of aid," said Abdessalam Ould Ahmed, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for the Near East and North Africa. “Millions of vulnerable Iraqis are in dire need of help to restore their self-sufficiency and build resilience,” he added.

Operations underway, but more support needed

Today FAO began delivery of seeds and fertilizer to 20,000 farmers in Ninevah, Dohuk, Erbil, and Diyala governates to support them during current winter planting season, and the Organization is supplying 7,500 herders with animal feed for the winter, thanks to funding from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

"This is an important step, but the needs are immense and we are facing a $38 million shortfall in terms of what is needed to prevent a further collapse of agriculture, " said Fadel El Zubi, FAO’s Representative in Iraq. “Thousands more farmers still need assistance. Failure to provide that help in a timely manner will have major and lasting repercussions on the agriculture sector and the food security of millions of Iraqis.”

“FAO’s call for funds is time-critical,” El Zubi stressed. The assistance will help families keep their livestock alive, protect strategic crops, promote quick-impact food production such as poultry raising and small-scale gardening, and create vital income opportunities.

FAO’s appeal is part of the 2014-2015 Strategic Response Plan for Iraq released by the United Nations last week. FAO’s total funding requirements of $53.2 million are around 28 percent met, leaving a funding gap of $38.5 million.

Most of Iraq’s wheat production takes place in the north, which has been significantly destabilized by the conflict. Nearly all of the country’s water resources flow through areas under the control of the self-described Islamic State (IS) and affiliated armed groups.

An Iraqi shepherd looks after his sheeps in al-Hamdaniyah, 76 km west of the Kurdish autonomous region's capital Arbil, on June 18, 2014, as Iraqis fleeing violence in northern Iraq gather at a nearby temporary camp. AFP PHOTO/KARIM SAHIB)