Submitted to: International Journal of Food, Agriculture, and the Environment
Publication Type: Peer reviewed journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/28/2003
Publication Date: 4/28/2003
Citation: JARADAT, A.A. AGRICULTURE IN IRAQ: RESOURCES, POTENTIALS, CONSTRAINTS AND RESEARCH NEEDS AND PRIORITIES. FOOD, AGRICULTURE & ENVIRONMENT. 2003. V. 1(2). P. 160-166. Interpretive Summary: Agriculture in Iraq is facing multiple pressures to meet the food requirements of a large and growing population. The agrarian sector in Iraq witnessed a number of drastic measures during the last 40 years. These include land reform, cooperative and collective state farming, central planning and, finally, private ownership. Cultivable land areas vary from 5-8 million ha; however, no more than 3.5 million ha (47% irrigated and 53% dryland farming) have been actually cultivated. The demographic pressure on the land combined with the need to produce more food from a limited and shrinking resource base of land and water are forcing farmers to follow exploitative production practices that maximize short-term returns at the expense of long-term sustainability. Agriculture uses 95% of all available water resources and produces 30% of the country's food requirements. Iraq will face greater water shortages in the coming decades and may have to adjust its agricultural production system accordingly. Agricultural production remains constrained by the lack of quality seed, herbicides, insecticides, fertilizers, animal vaccines, machinery, irrigation equipment and spare parts. Moreover, water resources across the country are declining (estimated at 43% of normal level in 1998) due to a severe drought which devastated crops on ~70% of the rainfed arable land in the country. Land degradation, salinization, declining crop yields due to mismanagement of land resources and lack of inputs are serious problems, especially in the irrigated lands. The country's forest and rangeland resources are deteriorating mainly as a result of deforestation and overstocking what are essentially fragile ecosystems. Number of farm animals, their health and production are deteriorating because of shortages in feed, veterinary services and vaccines. The analysis presented in this paper is of value to policy makers, agricultural planners, university educators, researchers and environmentalists in order to restructure the agricultural sector and devise long-term, holistic solutions to the many problems accumulated over the last few decades.
Technical Abstract: Revitalizing Iraqi agriculture to reduce dependence on food aid and food imports, and to increase farmers' income is a priority after two decades of neglect. Agricultural systems in Iraq are facing an unprecedented pressure to meet the food requirements of a population increasing at about 3% annually. Although the agricultural sector, during the last decade, has been given high priority to ensure food security through greater self-sufficiency, the country will continue to depend on imported food for the foreseeable future. During the last 40-50 years, a number of drastic measures, including land reform, cooperative and collective state farming, central planning and private ownership variably contributed to land degradation, salinization, and declining crop yields. Estimates of cultivable land areas vary from 5-8 million ha; however, no more than 3.5 million ha (47% irrigated and 53% dryland farming) have been actually cultivated. The agricultural sector deteriorated significantly in the 1990s due to a lack of investment and shortage of essential inputs. Agricultural production remains constrained due to lack of quality seed, herbicides, insecticides, fertilizers, animal vaccines, machinery, irrigation equipment and spare parts. Performance of the agricultural sector in Iraq was disappointing, not only as a result of environmental constraints (e.g., drought) but also due to poor management and inadequate planning and allocation of trained human resources; agricultural extension services and agricultural vocational education, in particular, are in need of major improvements. The livestock sector experienced serious problems during the last decade because of shortages in feed, veterinary services and vaccines. To deal with the multiple challenges imposed upon it by internal and external factors, the agricultural sector has to structurally adjust itself to address socio-economic, land-use, livestock production and feed resources, water resources, agro-ecology, environmental protection, and research and extension themes in a holistic, multidisciplinary and long-term approach.