The war-ravaged areas of Iraq and other regions freed from the control of dreaded terrorist group ISIS are reportedly staring at severe food insecurity and warrant imminent attention for remedial intervention.
These indications are being received by Devdiscourse in its preliminary reports of Participatory Monitoring of SDGs in the region. The Devdiscourse is conducting Participatory Monitoring of SDGs worldwide in which stakeholders on the ground are voluntarily providing the data online and through specially designed android application. In this innovative monitoring mechanism, the objective is to generate the data needed to close the information gap and achieve the evidence base required for robust implementation of the SDGs. As part of such monitoring, data is being collected on various aspects including the feedback on the status of food securities, policies of the respondents' government on agricultural pricing policies etc.
A feedback node from the participatory monitoring data stream indicates that the policies, plans, programs and projects of government on food security in Iraq are not enough to address the prevalent food insecurity and imminent challenges. Why so? Despite FAO has taken several action plans from 2003, such feedback asks for an in-depth participatory inquiry in the policies, plans, programs, and projects of government on food security by involving the target beneficiaries. The data collected through participatory monitoring, besides validating the reporting on food security situation by agencies, is also be helpful in planning targeted outreach strategies by the government machinery.
According to the study by WHO (2012-2017), Iraq's population in 1970 was 10 million and increased 3 times, i.e. more than 33 million, by 2010. The estimation of the United Nations was that it will be four times, i.e. about 50 million, by 2030. About 30 per cent of Iraqis live below the national poverty line. Warfare cycles for a long time in Iraq have affected the agriculture sector and hence inhibited agricultural production in the country. Warfare cycles disrupted the harvesting, planting cycles a lot in Iraq and resulted in the worst condition of food insecurities. These happenings resulted in economic losses due to which livestock keepers had to sell their animals and also producers or farmers faced a shortage of quality seeds and fertilizers.
As per WFP analysis published in 2017, the conflicts between ISIS and security forces had resulted in the displacement of about 3 million Iraqis, together with about 250,000 refugees from Syria. All this has put an extra strain on the food supply and remaining strategic reserves in Iraq. The government has been unable to deliver food assistance to the displaced population through its Public Distribution System (PDS) because of inflexible supply chains. Food security in Iraq decreased since 2009, most likely because of the deteriorating security situation and related political factors. Still, Iraq is recovering from a large struggle of conflict. About more than 50 per cent of Iraqis are at risk of food insecurity. And these people are not in a condition of copping further any more shocks of conflict or warfare, and increase in the price of food, etc. And more than 70 percent of children under the age of 15 years is working to assist their families in getting food instead of going to school.
Poor budgetary allocation for agriculture is another cause of Iraq's food insecurity. Iraq is also, facing difficulties in procuring the necessary amount of food for its people due to debt payment obligations. A continuous fall in grain production is leading to an increased need for imports to satisfy demand and to close the food supply gap.
The efforts of local and international humanitarian and development organizations could help only a fraction of the affected population. Furthermore, these organizations can give food aid for a limited time only in the demand side and can't replace the Public Distribution System (PDS) and other forms of government support. On the supply side, the farmers are getting assistance from international organizations for seed and fertilizer distribution, but it is also to maintain subsistence. According to the data from Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation, FAO has taken action to rehabilitate the agriculture of Iraq by rehabilitating the seed industry since 2003, promoting efficient cattle breeding techniques, and stimulating fish production. In 2014, FAO has assisted Iraq for the development of agricultural strategies and policies and in addition, FAO has been helping about 2 million displaced Iraqis since 2014 with emergency agriculture, livelihood support and funding with the contribution of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Government of Iraq has committed to achieving SDG2 aims at food security and improving the nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture. The route to achieve Zero Hunger (SDG2) goes through concrete policies on family planning, education, agriculture production, safety nets, rural livelihood, reducing exposure to market volatility via storage, incomes of small-scale food producers, in particular women, indigenous peoples, family farmers, pastoralists and fishers, including through secure and equal access to land, and applying hedging policies and other productive resources and inputs, knowledge, financial services, markets and opportunities.
Disclaimer: The opinion expressed above are the author's own.