Mesopotamia threatened by famine

Mesopotamia threatened by famine

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Researcher Shatha Khalil *

Translated by : mudhaffar al-kusairi

“Mesopotamia,” this is the name of Iraq, which refers to the fertility of its land and its abundance of water, which made it the cradle of the oldest civilization in history, where the natural internal and surrounding factors all help for it , and Mesopotamia continued to be a source of food, grain and plantations to its people and neighbors until recently, before the plight of the US occupation and the bloody events that followed.

With the collapse of the Iraqi state in 2003 , its political and economic security was collapsed , in addition to food security, which is intended to the extent of the country’s ability to meet the needs of basic food from its own product, or its ability to import under any circumstances and whatever the high world food prices.
Fears have intensified in Iraq for food security following the recent escalation of the conflict in a large swathe of the country, according to warnings issued today by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The prevalence of food insecurity has been doubled among poor families, especially the displaced, compared to those remaining in their homes; the highest concentration of households who suffer from food insecure was in the southern part of the country, Mosul and parts of Salah al-Din.

More than one million people have fled their homes and farms, leaving their jobs and property, where local agricultural production fell significantly due to the conditions experienced by Iraq from the lack of production materials and scarcity in irrigation water, and some important agricultural operations such as irrigation techniques and lack of fertilizers, as well as lack of control Borders and weak agricultural quarantine, this led to the dependence of Iraq on imported materials by 80%, as the imported product is a very large competitor, and may cover the local product because of there was no taxes on the imported materials , and the lack of support for the local product, and the large demand for imported product compared to the local product which opened the door widely in front of traders to import new and a various crops , suit the tastes of consumers.

The real reasons for the deterioration of agriculture in Iraq :
• Dependence of the Iraqi economy on oil as the only source of wealth, an immediate and not strategic choice, and neglect other sectors, including the agricultural sector.
. Water scarcity and desertification in large areas of land as a result of climate, weather and global warming, which contributed to the lack of rainfall.
• The negative policy exercised by the neighboring countries from which waters of the Iraqi rivers come and the countries that these rivers pass through to reach the Iraqi territory, which significantly affected the amount of water reaching Iraq.
• Laziness of the Iraqi peasant and his search for other professions more comfortable, and the transformation from producer to consumer of agricultural crops, and this trend occurred as a result of many reasons not only endured by the farmer, but by many parties.
• The lack of modern agricultural mechanization that supports the peasant in the reclamation of agricultural land, and reliance on old and sometimes primitive means, which affects the size and quality of the productivity of the land.
• Failure to provide modern chemical fertilizers by the state to the farmer, and if available, they are given at exorbitant prices.
• Failure to provide good quality of seeds for the farmer, which contributes smoothly in raising the quantity and quality of agricultural crops.
• The transformation of most agricultural land into housing units, which caused the lack of arable land, in the absence of governmental control over this behavior and no deterrent measures to prevent it.
• Failure of the state to embrace the peasant, not to sponsor him and to provide real support to him properly, and the lack of listening to his views caused the disruption of the work of the agricultural associations, which have become merely a relationship and have little action.
• The lack of financial allocations from the central and local governments to support the agricultural sector in all its details has led to the deterioration in this vital sector.
• Clear neglect of the agricultural reality in general, making Iraq a market for agricultural crops imported from neighboring countries, and making Iraq consumer and not productive despite the availability of all the ingredients in the country to be self-sufficient in this area and be a source of agricultural crops.
• Lack of agricultural engineering staff in agricultural divisions and field extension workers in most governorates, which negatively affects the entire agricultural production process.
• The current laws, especially the land laws, are not compatible with agricultural development, especially the ownership laws, the law (177) and the leasing law.
• Failure to activate the law of protection of agricultural production at the present time, as most specialists in this field believe that it is necessary to activate it as soon as necessary to improve the agricultural sector.
• The lack of arrival of the necessary services to many villages, where the services provided by municipal councils and civil society organizations focused on some villages but not others and according to favoritism and side relationships.
• Lack of regular trocar networks that help to reclaim land and reduce salinity, and rely on old networks that do not keep pace with scientific development in this area.
• The use of old methods for irrigation of orchards and fields, which led to the salinity of the soil and inadequate water for it.
• Pervasive administrative corruption in most facilities of state institutions and agricultural departments that impedes the development of the agricultural sector.
• The lack of protection of local agricultural products from competition from those imported from neighboring countries and other countries, which made most farmers leave the profession of agriculture because of this competition, which they can not keep up.
• The problem of not regulating the marketing processes and the difficulty of bringing the local product to the market because the farmer or the peasant depends on his weak possibilities that makes the merchant who imports the local product to dominate the marketing and selling process that suits the trader.
• The local product is characterized by the high cost due to the lack of the main financier of the crop (water / fertilizer / seed / fuel /electricity) and the lack of labor availability compared to the imported product, and the lack of awareness among consumers and farmer towards the crops, because of the diseases, insects or seeds or Jungles may give a new environment when they enter Iraq which has a negative impact on the local product and imported product itself, although most of the crops introduced may be genetically modified.

In Iraq , the issue is not far from the successive crises, which occurred as a result of the deterioration of the economic reality in various countries in that period, as we have no effective food security, and no successful economic policy and effective, not even good economic supervision, which follows the market and monitor the work of imported consumer and luxury goods .

If prices continue to decline, the deterioration will increase in the coming periods, as evidenced by the recent fragile fiscal policy and the contents of provisions and paragraphs of the federal budget law for the current year.

In spite of the richness of the Iraqi economy, and its oil wealth and tremendous funds, but it has entered the stage of decline over the past years, and this means that it suffers from serious and big problems that put it in an unenviable position, for several reasons, the most important of which fluctuating world oil prices, and large administrative and financial corruption which drains and exhausts its economic and financial resources, in addition to the absence of decision makers specialized in the economic and financial side.

The rate of economic decline in Iraq, is expected to reach below the rate of economic growth , and may rise relatively with increasing oil production rates and lower prices in the global market, but if prices continue to decline, the deterioration will increase during the coming periods, and this has been shown recently through the fragile fiscal policy, and the contents of the paragraphs and provisions of the federal budget law for the current year, in terms of the inclusion of oil prices in its items, without realistic expectations of fluctuation of oil prices in the market.
Unable to address the real problems of the Iraqi economy, the Iraqi authorities began to cheat public opinion of its economic potential, instead of introducing near and long-term strategic economic laws, or rehabilitating and building economic and industrial projects, and textile , dairy, iron and steel factories, and fields of gas and scientific projects. It did nothing .

The deterioration in all sectors, especially agriculture, has resulted in the decline in the volume of production of many crops, especially those that the country has known historically, such as palm, where the number of palm fell from about 30 million palm trees , a few decades ago , to about 12 million palm trees, while rice where the space allocated for its cultivation was declined .

Based on the foregoing, we conclude that the neglect of successive occupation governments for this sector, which represents the backbone of life, as an indispensable economic pillar, it can solve the problem of unemployment fully if the attention is paid to the countryside, and the provision of services of all kinds, and concern for health, paving roads and providing Electricity, there is no way for economic advancement and solving all financial crises and the problem of deepening unemployment only by taking agriculture as a strategic solution .

Strategic Studies Unit
Ra wabet Center for Research and Strategic Studies