As it experiences more frequent and severe droughts, sand and dust storms, soil salinization, and declining water resources, Iraq is exceptionally vulnerable to desertification and land degradation. Food shortages sparked by the COVID-19 global pandemic have sent a sobering message for Iraq to urgently protect its fragile land and biodiversity resources.
The fertile soil of ancient Mesopotamia gave birth to agriculture thousands of years ago. And agriculture remains deep rooted in modern-day Iraq despite its vast oil reserves. But desertification and land degradation deprive the country of the arable land needed to improve food security and diversify its oil-reliant economy.
Even before the pandemic, more than half of Iraqis were at risk of food insecurity. It is therefore critical for Iraq to meet its pledge to rehabilitate almost 350,000 hectares of land by 2035 and pursue a more sustainable agriculture.
The theme for the 2020 Desertification and Drought Day is “Food.Feed.Fibre – the links between consumption and land”. In Iraq as across the world, we are placing increasingly unsustainable demands on our land to produce food for humans, feed for animals, and fibre for clothing. Growing populations and climate change are exacerbating these pressures, but through problem-solving, community involvement and strong co-operation at all levels, we can fight land degradation.
Indeed, we can begin by educating ourselves on how to reduce our personal impact. A good start is to stop wasting food. By wasting food, we waste land, water, and biodiversity. Everyone has a choice to make, and no choice is too small.
Healthy land = healthy people.