Emergency fertilizer distributions help conflict-affected Iraqi farmers increase wheat production
More than 2 000 farmers affected by conflict in Iraq have received 750 tonnes of fertilizer from the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to increase production of their winter wheat crops.
The farmers, from Alqosh and Sheikan districts of Ninewa Governorate each received 350 kilograms of fertilizer, half of which will be used now for planting and the other half in spring to boost the wheat’s growth.
Since the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) took parts of Iraq’s wheat belt in 2014, farmers have struggled to either access or afford fertilizer and other agricultural inputs, due to challenges that include restricted access to markets, the high cost of inputs, and the effect of conflict on Iraq’s Government, resulting in delayed payments to farmers for previous crops.
“The shortage of fertilizer has been a challenge for us. We can’t afford to buy it,” said local farmer Seve Kheder Slo, who grows wheat with her husband on their small farm to support their seven children. “We just planted our winter wheat crop and we’ll use this fertilizer straight away. It will support the crop to grow more than it would otherwise.”
With nearly one-third of Iraqis requiring humanitarian assistance, food security remains one of the most worrying aspects of the crisis in Iraq. Some 77 percent of Iraq’s 2.9 million food insecure people are women, children or elderly.
“When farmers can no longer access or afford inputs like fertilizer and pesticides, their crops, should they be able to plant them at all, are unlikely to thrive,” said Dr Fadel El-Zubi, FAO Representative in Iraq. “Since 2014, this is one of the factors that has contributed to countrywide cereal shortages and a sharp rise in the cost of basic food commodities in Iraq.
“Restoring people’s ability to farm and trade in conflict-affected communities is not only important for food security, but also for building peace and prosperity in the country,” he said.