Thursday, February 7, 2008

Iraqi agriculture

"In the 1950s, Iraq was self-sufficient in agricultural production, according to a 2004 Congressional Research Service report. But by the 1960s it imported 15 percent of its food, by 1980 it imported half, and by 2002 it relied on imports for 80 to 100 percent of many staples, including wheat, rice and vegetable oil, under the United Nations oil-for-food program.

Part of the reason for that slide from self-sufficiency was a rapidly growing population that outpaced production capabilities. Throughout the 1980s the Iraqi government heavily subsidized agricultural production. But by the mid-1990s economic problems related to international sanctions ended much of that support, and lack of resources such as fertilizer, farm machinery and pesticides meant production dropped. Also, water pumps and irrigation canals -- which are essential to most farming in the country and which must be cleaned and repaired each year -- were neglected, leading to problems with soil salinity.

Some U.S. and international organizations are working to help rehabilitate Iraq's agricultural infrastructure.

Since 2006, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agricultural Service has sent employees to Iraq to serve on Provincial Reconstruction Teams -- groups of civilians that work with military units on reconstruction projects. As of late January, 23 USDA agricultural advisers were working across Iraq." (thanks D.)

Don't you just love how they break everything and then make you pay for fixing it? What did Klein call it again? Disaster capitalism? And now they have "embedded professional development experts" with the army. I blogged about these earlier.

Read the article for the list of projects that are supposed to change the face of food sovereignty in Iraq. Example: A beekeeper association in a town. Those people have no imagination! This is exactly the same kind of projects they set up in Lebanon and elsewhere through over paid and overfed US NGOs and then claim it as a contribution to sustainable livelihoods. This is smaller than a pin prick. And rest assured that in the absence of a strong state that builds infrastructure (destroyed by the war) and supports the establishment of agricultural inputs factories (bombed by the US) and agrofood industries (destroyed by the war too), there can be no salvation. Not to sound conspiratory, but look how beautifully designed: Northern NGOs get multi millions contracts to teach the date growers how to grow dates, everybody celebrates the achievement of the token civil society group (this falls under the general label: "Democracy"), and the millions of Iraqis who have not yet been made refugees continue to consume the products imported from the North paying for it high prices from oil sales. Who said the the oil-for-food program has ended?

And if you don't believe me, read what this Iraqi economist says in the same article: "And he questioned some of the agricultural laws put in place by the coalition provisional authority in 2004, which he said could pave the way for international agribusinesses to enter the Iraqi market in a way that would be detrimental to the average farmer."

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