By Mohammed Omar al-Qaysi.
Farmers in Ninawa are being forced to abandon their farms in droves because of desertification. And now they say, to make matters worse, those who don’t even have farms have been claiming subsidies and seeds that belong to the beleaguered agriculturalists.
Despite the fact that he had been there many times, the old farmer found it almost impossible to get to the house of his brother: the whole house, in a village in the district of Hadar, Ninawa, was almost completely covered in sand.
“Today most of the green farmland that used to be here has gone – because of drought and desertification,” Haleel Ahmed, 60, who grows wheat, barley and maize and raises sheep on a farm about 23 kilometres southwest of here, told NIQASH. “We can’t even plant anything. Even if we irrigate the land with well water the sand just kills the plants before they grow,” Ahmed explains sadly.
“And the people don’t have enough money to drill more wells or buy fuel to operate water pumps,” he adds. These are just some of the reasons his brother’s house – and the houses and farms of others here - have been abandoned.
This is the result of desertification which Mosul University’s Remote Sensing Centre – which gathers information remotely, usually through aerial surveys – now says, affects around 166,600 square kilometres of Iraq. That is closing in on half of the country; Iraq is only around 438,000 square kilometres big. The Remote Sensing Centre says that this means more dust storms for everyone – about 300 days worth of them for some cities, they estimate.