TVM Sector Perspective
How Sector Activities Impact People, Place, Planet and Profit
Chapter 6 - Agriculture, Fisheries & Food
6-2 Crop Production
Crop agriculture is part of the productive sector, and of huge importance in the global scheme of things. Without food, there is no life. The revolution in agricultural productivity set the stage for the “north” to become wealthy a long time ago, and it is often overlooked that “north” agriculture remains amazingly productive. Under 5% of the “north” population is engaged in agriculture and there are embarrassingly large surpluses.
In contrast poor “south” countries might well have 80% of the population engaged in rural agriculture and associated support activities, and the country is hungry because there is not enough food. This is all about productivity, and a terrible failure of the relief and development community.
Iraq does not have much rainfall, and irrigated agriculture is one way to improve agricultural productivity. There are many lessons to be learned from history. The human and social dimension have to be taken into consideration as well as technical considerations like managing salinity.
Israel has demonstrated that irrigation can be used successfully to change the productivity of arid land. So also has South Africa and Namibia in Africa and California in the United States.
Rainfed agriculture is limited because of the very low and erratic precipitation in the area. Some drought tolerant crops are possible in some areas. The way in which the low and erratic precipitation problem has been solved in traditional agriculture has been in a very practical way. Periodic torrential rainfall in the watersheds of the various river systems produces flash floods that inundate large areas of very dry land. The water and nutrients associated with these flash floods create opportunities for crop agriculture, and very large areas can be seeded very quickly when these situations occur. If the crops mature, there can be large surpluses that then add to family and community level food security.
A variety of crops
Various fruits and vegetables can be grown in the area very successfully, but they do need an adequate supply of water. Very small plots have produced substantial amounts of tomatoes, onions, garlic, etc. but these plots compete for water with human and animal needs.
There are many tree crops that could be successful in the Iraq conditions. These include various citrus fruits as well as date palms.
Small farmers usually have some cattle that are the basis for dairy products, primarily milk. The exploitation of the market for milk has been growing and dairy is now an important part of the agro-pastoral revenue. When there is serious drought the settled agro-pastoral community is more at risk than the pure pastoralist who has the opportunity to move to a better location.
There is an existing bee-keeping industry that provides the community with honey that is used in a lot of traditional area food.
Water is the foundation of everything. The success of settled agriculture in the area depends more than anything else on water. There are many ways in which water can be provided to achieve success in the development of settled agriculture, but anything that is done must be acceptable to the community and be done on a way that serves the best interests of the community as the community sees it. Furthermore the development of water for one community group must not have a damaging impact on the way of life and economy of another group.
Community groups can also make productive use of tractors. Some groups have found used tractors to buy at reasonable prices and have done so. Good used tractors would be a suitable subject for loan financing under the project development fund.
Training and extension
Training and extension is needed to add to the knowledge of the community about agricultural and development possibilities.