USAID Conference Advances Ideas on Farm Water Management in Iraq

For Immediate Release

Wednesday, March 4, 2009
USAID Press Office

BAGHDAD, IRAQ -Iraqi Minister of Water Resources Dr. Abdul Latif Jamal Rashid and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Deputy Mission Director Thomas R. Delaney today inaugurated an irrigation symposium focused on improving farm productivity through effective water management and crop selection.

Agriculture is the second largest industry in Iraq behind oil and is the single largest employer. Iraq has nearly 30 million acres of land suitable for agriculture as the acreage is surrounded by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Of the 30 million acres, about 20 million are irrigable while the remaining land relies on rainfall. However, neglect of irrigation infrastructure for more than two decades has resulted in serious deficiencies and degradation, constraining availability of water for agriculture.

Noting these challenges, USAID's Inma Agribusiness Program invited leading Iraqi agricultural researchers, economists, and policy experts to review and identify advances needed to manage farm production with limited water resources. Titled "Reviving Irrigation Districts," the conference focused on a series of studies on crop selection in irrigated land, participative water management, and the merits of public-private partnerships. According to the studies, Iraqi farmers have opportunities to increase income from their production, particularly through diversification of higher-value crops like fruits and vegetables. In addition, with their shared responsibility and managed risk, public-private partnerships hold the promise of bringing in efficient management skills, fresh funds, and relief of government responsibility for maintenance of resources.

Mr. Delaney said that the work done by Inma in analyzing the options for how to achieve the greatest return on irrigated land is a critical step forward in helping Iraqi farmers and policy makers in their choices.

Complementing USAID's other economic growth programs, Inma works in provinces to support the development of agribusinesses and agricultural markets, improving the livelihoods of farmers. The project addresses many of the vital links required to raise, harvest, transport and market better quality, higher-value crops and to improve the health and marketability of livestock and fish through better care, feed and technology.

Since 2003, USAID has invested more than $6 billion on programs designed to stabilize communities; foster economic and agricultural growth; and build the capacity of the national, local, and provincial governments to respond to the needs of the Iraqi people.