In 1997, Zakho Small Project Villages (ZSVP)started its organic agriculture activities in Iraq. Through the dissemination of organic agriculture techniques, awareness raising on environment and pesticide hazards, rural extension and training courses for farmers, rural women, agriculture department staff and students, ZSVP pushed for Organic Agriculture in Iraq.
At that period, we (as an NGO interested in Organic Agriculture) faced many problems with the government, first because of economic sanctions. Indeed, the main goal of the government was to produce food without taking any consideration to the value, health and environmental issues. Secondly, we faced problems with the FAO policy in Iraq, as the FAO due to the UN resolution 986 (Oil for Food) was regularly importing a lot of agriculture chemicals and distribute to or oblige farmers to receive these chemical inputs as a condition to receive other equipments.
Until 2003, organic activities were focused on Northern governorates of Iraq, but after this date, our organic program expanded to cover other areas of Iraq thanks to the support of international organizations.
In 2009, the Organic agriculture department is founded in the Ministry of agriculture in Iraq which expected to play an important role in dissemination of organic agriculture among farmers especially in middle and southern governorates.
During 2010-2012, many conferences and meetings arranged by universities and Iraqi academics recommended to adopt organic agriculture as a mean to reduce the deterioration in the environment and agriculture land which was caused by the successive Gulf wars between 1980-2003.
In 2010 and for the first time in Iraq, 37 farmers (Grapes growers) were organically certified and work is ongoing to increase the land organically cultivated and certified farmers.
Today, organic agriculture is studied in colleges of agriculture in the Kurdistan region and Iraq especially to graduate students.
These are important achievements that need to be underlined, however there are still many challenges the organic farmers have to face in Iraq. They include:
- Drought and desertification problems and lack of will from the government to tackle this problem;
- Lack of law and legislation in Iraq to provide a legal framework for organic production;
- Non availability of organic inputs and high prices if available;
- Lack of organic marketing of farmers’ produce;
These challenges can be overcome by organizing advocacy campaigns for the protection of agricultural land in Iraq against unsustainable practices, procedures and the government’s mismanagement of soil and agricultural land. The governement should be pressured to create a legislation and framework for organic production, as well as for marketing and certification of organic products.
Dr. Abid Alli Hasan
Zakho Small Villages Program Coordinator in Iraq