18 February 2020
  • food resilience
  • Conflict
  • climate security

Desertification due to conflict heightens instability in Iraq

Land degradation due to climate change is a major issue in Iraq, but conflict is making it even worse. In 2014 when the so-called Islamic State took over areas west and north Iraq, farming communities were forced to leave their houses, lands and livestock. Framers lost their primary source of food and income and relied on little savings or aids from local and international organizations. 

In 2016, when it was finally safe to return home, farmers faced another disappointment, their houses were burnt, and the farms were arid. They couldn’t replant the land because water infrastructure was left unmaintained for two years and some were destroyed.

The displacement made the land susceptible to desertification, thus increasing instability in the long run. Reports indicate that up to 90% of Iraq’s total area is threatened by desertification, and 45% of the country agricultural land faces drought and land degradation. The rapid and high rates of losing arable fields are alarming and could drive Iraq to the verge of another crisis. 

International organizations like The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) understands the importance of land reclamation to fight food insecurity. UNHCR in Iraq is helping farmers replant their land and, thus, participate in improving stability in the country. With the help of local partners, UNHCR reconstructed the irrigation system and rehabilitated the main water canal in the village, which encouraged around 8500 displaced farmers return to their farms and replanting native vegetables and fruits.

Read UNHCR story 'Returning to ruins, displaced Iraqi farmers find help to rebuild', and watch the video here.   

Photo credit: Bill Rape/ Flickr