Sandstorms, Corruption Make Ninawa Farmers Abandon Land And Home

Meanwhile locals blame corruption for some of the problems they are having.

Locals in Hadar’s villages agree that 90 percent of the farmers there have been forced to abandon their farmland and move to other areas because of desertification and drought.

“The people of the villages have spent all their savings over the past years,” Jihad al-Shammari, 43, the headman of Mukhtar village in the Biaaj district, told NIQASH. “Some have sold their cattle to buy seeds and fodder because they couldn’t get any government subsidies. Nor were there any job opportunities that would have allowed them to stay on their land or plant it.”

As for compensation or subsidies that are given out, farmers claim they’re going into the wrong hands. The money is apparently being handed out to the rich rather than the poor and to individuals who have forged proof of agricultural work or farm ownership.

A member of Hadar’s local council, Jassim Mohammed concurs, saying they have discovered around 50 such cases and blames Department of Agriculture officials for the problem.

The Department of Agriculture says that the forged contracts were discovered because of complaints from local farmers and that investigations are under way to find out who is behind the forgeries.

Meanwhile Jassim, a local seed merchant who did not want to have his full name used, said that he suspected that farmers, with better relationships with officials, were managing to get a bigger share of subsidized seeds – and then they were going on to sell the seeds on the black market.

“Political infighting, the fact that Ninawa officials don’t understand the situation properly and the tribal nature of relationships in this area has made things difficult for local farmers,” Mohammed explains the realities of farming in Ninawa. “Government support either goes to the district’s capital or to people who have nothing to do with agriculture or livestock. And that is because of the nepotism and corrupt official methods.”

All of the problems that local farmers face in Ninawa, as well as what they see as growing corruption, sees people like Ahmed, the farmer whose brother’s house was claimed by the desert, growing more worried.

Ahmed says that mostly they are afraid that things will return to a sort of feudal state, where wealthy Iraqis control all the land and others simply work on it. As a result, many local farmers are considering setting up their own committees to call for investigations into subsidized equipment and seeds that never reached those who needed them most.

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