With Iraq facing a third consecutive year of drought, the country's agriculture ministry has announced its decision to reduce its 2021-2022 winter crop planting area by 50 Percent. In its statement, the ministry said the water currently available in reservoirs and dams was only enough to irrigate an estimated 250,000 hectares of land.
The crop reduction plan places immense pressure on Iraq’s already fragile food system. An estimation made by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) predicted that, by the end of this season, wheat production will be 70 Percent lower and barley production negligible due to the drought severely hampering the development of vegetation.
Statements made 16 October by UNFAO, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) calling for commitment to tackle water shortages and climate change in order to help reform food systems in Iraq, exemplify the severity of the situation.
In a joint statement, UNFAO Representative in Iraq Dr Salah El Hajj Hassan, WFP Iraq Representative Ally-Raza Qureshi, and IFAD Lead Economist Alessandra Garbero said: “The impact of water shortages in Iraq is becoming evident through the lower crop yields for 2021. Urgent action is required to confront climate change, working together to address the root causes.”
“Reforming food systems will also help the most vulnerable communities in Iraq withstand future shocks. Resilient, modern food systems are important for long term food security and the sustainable economic growth of Iraq.”
The drought has been compounded by the extraction of water from the Tigris and Euphrates - rivers shared with neighbouring Turkey and Syria, and countries which are suffering from their own water crises. Iraq has long sought to negotiate a monthly water quota with Turkey, with many Iraqis believing that Turkey is using water supplies from the Tigris River as a political pawn.
The WFP analysis of two of the worst-affected areas, Ninewa and Salah al-Din governorates, identified that insufficient food consumption and use of negative coping strategies, such as eating less food and borrowing money, were almost double the national average. Urgent action is required to address the water shortages in Iraq and consequent food insecurity.