More than 2,000 Iraqi farmers affected by conflict have been given 750 tons of fertilizer from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to boost production of their winter wheat crops. The farmers come from Alqosh and Sheikan districts of Ninewa Governorate and each of them received 350 kilograms of crop nutrients, half of which is designated for planting and the other half for boosting the wheat’s growth.
Since the Islamic State (ISIL) took control of parts of Iraq’s wheat belt in 2014, farmers have been having a hard time to get access to crop nutrients and other agricultural inputs or simply to afford them. The main reasons behind this struggle are challenges such as restricted access to markets, the high cost of inputs, and the effect of conflict on the Iraqi 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,” a local Iraqi farmer commented adding that “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.” Food security remains a major issue in the Iraqi domestic crisis with almost one third of the Iraqis requiring humanitarian assistance. About 77 percent of Iraq’s 2.9 million food-insecure people are women, children or elderly.
Dr Fadel El-Zubi, FAO representative in Iraq, commented that “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. 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”.