On-Farm Trials: Tools to Reduce Poverty

By Layth Mahdi, Agricultural Advisor. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

On-farm demonstration trials are used to teach farmers to improve their agricultural practices and increase yield. It serves as one of the most valuable extension education program to help farmers to sustain the environment, increase agricultural production and reduce poverty.

In Iraq, over 80 percent of farmers practice traditional farming techniques that resulted in low production and productivity. It is useful to demonstrate good crop production practices on small plots by comparing them with traditional farming methods so farmers can see results and adopt the new practices.

Some technologies had shown good results such as introducing a greenhouse tomato production, combined application technique of fertilizers and pesticides or changing the practice from flood irrigation to furrow irrigation (http://www.iraq-businessnews.com/2011/09/12/furrow-irrigation-strategy-to-save-water-in-iraq/).

Last year I have visited many agricultural extension centers in Iraq and found that the extension personnel lack the infrastructures (research equipment) and monetary support for their activities. In addition the personnel have limited academic education and knowledge, and lack practical field experience and skills. Above all they lack adequate incentives.

Most agricultural extension staff told me that they receive a very low salary, less than $200/month. The Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), instead of constructing modern villages ($500 million) and providing agricultural loan ($500 million) without any study (failed programs), MUST allocate financial resources to provide training and education program to revitalize the agricultural extension services and workers in order to better serve the needs of farmers. This approach is as an investment option for MoA to improve agricultural production and to fight rural poverty.

In 2008, a demonstration trial was conducted in farmer’s field in Anbar province, Iraq. It was published in March 2009 in Information Management Unit – PRT/USAID, Baghdad, Iraq, and can be found in this pdf.

One Response to On-Farm Trials: Tools to Reduce Poverty

  1. G. Camillo June 14, 2012 at 2:32 pm #

    In 2006 and 2007 I worked independently in Iraq to establish agricultural programs involving revitalizing local economies. In meeting with the local small farmers, what they made clear was that they had been farming this land for hundreds of years – and they knew how to farm. What they did need were good quality, non genetically manipulated seeds and fertilizers that were environmentally friendly. The resources exist in Iraq naturally, and the people were some of the best I have had the privilege of meeting. Sadly, projects were continuously blocked by individuals whose interest lay elsewhere.
    I remain convinced that highly trained and educated Iraqi agriculturalists exist. For example, in visiting the Amarah Sugar Cane Estate, I spoke with workers dedicated to keeping the strains of cane growing in the hope that the factory would one day open again. These workers knew the cane variety by international name and were extremely knowledgable. Again, the human and natural resources existed – but the system had failed it.
    I agree with Layth Mahdi statement that massive amounts of money were wasted on failed programs. However, greenhouses and chemically grown tomatoes in a land rich in soil and climate for growing naturally seems a misguided effort.