The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, inaugurated its new office In Sulaymaniya [Slemani] under the patronage of the First Lady of Iraq – Ms. Serbagh Saleh; and with the participation of the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Ms. Marta Ruedas; FAO Representative a.i. for Iraq Mr. René Verduijn; the Governor of Sulaymaniyah Dr. Hafal Abu Bakr; the Head of the Provincial Council Azad Mohammed Amin; and the Director General of Sulaymaniyah’s Directorate of Agriculture.

The meeting was addressed by the First Lady who thanked FAO for its leading and effective role in combating famine and securing food around the world and in Iraq. She also highlighted the importance of promoting bio-diversity in the region.

Also speaking at the ceremony, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Ms. Ruedas, said that, “the inauguration of the new FAO Office symbolizes the interest of the UN to support the people of Sulaymaniya in achieving long-term, sustainable development.”

“It also shows the importance of investing in the Agriculture and Water Sectors, but we should be reminded to also reduce the water pollution the sector generates,” she added.

On his part, the FAO Resident Representative, a.i., Mr. Verduijn, expressed his gratitude to the First Lady for her contribution to promoting bio-diversity, in particular her work as a co-founder of the Kurdistan Botanical Foundation that is committed to establish a gene/ seed bank in Sulaymaniya and her efforts as an activist in defense of women’s rights.

“FAO in Iraq is keen on promoting agriculture to help achieve economic growth, a stable society, food and nutrition security for all and improving bio-diversity. We feel strongly towards supporting Iraq in face of the numerous challenges it faces in terms of agriculture and water through promoting Good Agriculture Practices and improving smallholder farmers’ livelihoods”, said Mr. Verduijn.

The new office comes at a significant moment as the country moves away from emergency towards more development to provide structural support to the sub-sectors, and people’s livelihoods.

The new UN office is located within the Directorate of Agriculture in Sulaymaniyah. In April, FAO celebrated its 40th anniversary of the establishment of FAO in Iraq in 1979. Assistance has targeted a wide range of sub-sectors, including crops, livestock, fisheries and forestry, and has proved to be successful in supporting agricultural research and extension institutes over years of stability, sanctions and conflict. The inauguration of the new office is another landmark in the organization’s efforts to reinforce its technical programs for the benefit of the people of Iraq.

(Source: UN)

(Picture credit: Diyar Muhammed)

By Omar Sattar for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News

Iraq fears bevy of levees will mean parched years ahead

Although water levels in the Tigris and Euphrates rivers have been rising as torrential rains fill some of the largest dams in Iraq, the threat of drought persists.

Turkey is now taking the necessary steps to fill its controversial Ilisu Dam, while Iran continues to cut off tributaries of the rivers flowing into Iraq.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at a March 7 rally that the country will begin filling the reservoir of the dam on the Tigris River in June, despite warnings from the Iraqi government that the process will dry out large areas of the country.

Click here to read the full story.

By John Lee.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has issued a report on its “Priority Humanitarian Small Scale Projects: In Health, Education, Municipality, Electricity, Social Care, Agriculture and Livelihoods and Water Sectors Kurdistan Region-Iraq 2019“.

The document presents a detailed breakdown of a total 167 priority humanitarian Small Scale Projects (SMPs) for 2019.

The focus is therefore on small-scale projects with the cost per project ranging from USD 28,000 to 1.2 million.

Download the full 39-page report here.

(Source: KRG)

By John Lee.

A report from Bellingcat claims to have identified the source of a mysterious black sludge in Mosul Lake.

Analysis of open source satellite images suggest a combination of oil waste water, caused by either oil dumping or flooding of polluted rivers by the winter rains.

Click here to read the full report.

(Source: Bellingcat)

  • Test results from international laboratories confirm that the death of millions of farmed carp in Iraq in late 2018 was caused by fish disease, not pollution.
  • The carp suffered from the Koi Herpes Virus (KHV), a lethal disease known to cause almost 100 percent mortality rates in carps.
  • Based on these results, we can therefore rule out that chemical contamination played a role in the fish kill, which should reassure the public that the farmed carp is safe to eat.

On 26 October 2018, a major fish kill episode that wiped out millions of mostly caged farmed carp in Iraq’s central Euphrates region sent the country into major panic. Fear spread that the fish kill was caused by a mysterious pollution that could also poison people, whilst fish farmers agonized over their losses as the source of their livelihoods abruptly vanished.

Deeming the fish kill a national security issue, Iraq’s newly appointed Prime Minister, Dr. Adel Abdul Mahdi, immediately assembled a crisis team led by the Ministry of Health and Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture to investigate its causes and take appropriate remedial measures.

“The scale of the fish kill was so huge, we had excavators working for four days clearing the fish from the river,” affirmed Dr. Ala Alwan, Iraq’s Minister of Health and Environment, who personally inspected the situation on the ground once news of the incident broke out. “We also used oil spill booms to contain and prevent the fish from drifting downstream, especially as many fish farmers rashly dumped the dead carp into the Euphrates River,” he added.

Faced with this unprecedented massive fish mortality, the Iraqi Government decided to request emergency technical assistance from the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and UN Environment to help determine the cause of the sudden die off.

Fish and environmental samples were collected by the Ministry of Health and Environment based on UN Environment’s advice from the epicentre of the fish kill incident near Al-Musayab, Babel governorate, approximately 70 kilometres south of Baghdad. Since 2011, this area had become a thriving hub for Iraq’s growing fish farming industry where a rapid expansion in the use of floating river cages to grow common carp (Cyprinus carpio) became established. At the same time, “the high density of fish cages almost back-to-back for kilometres, coupled with extreme overstocking, contravened national regulations,” cautioned Minister Alwan.

UN Environment, WHO and FAO rapidly organized for the fish, water, sediment and fish feed samples to be shipped to internationally-accredited laboratories. Comprehensive chemical and microbiological tests were carried out by three different laboratories, including in Switzerland, Jordan and Italy.

For all the samples taken by the Ministry of Health and Environment, test results showed no significant contamination from heavy metals, hydrocarbons or pesticides. “Unlike water, which only gives a snapshot of environmental conditions at a specific point in time, sediment acts as a storage reservoir for contaminants,” explained Dr. John Pote, Head of the Laboratory of Environmental Microbiology at the University of Geneva, who coordinated the laboratory study commissioned by UN Environment.

“Based on these results, we can therefore rule out that chemical contamination played a role in the fish kill, which should reassure the public that the farmed carp is safe to eat,” he added. These conclusions were also shared by Mr. Ahmed El-Olimat, Deputy Head of Quality and Laboratory Affairs in Ministry of Water and Agriculture in Jordan, who coordinated the test of the water samples sent by WHO to Jordan.

DNA tests run by the Swiss National Fish Disease Laboratory and Reference Laboratory for Notifiable Diseases found the presence of the Cyprinid herpesvirus (CyHV-3) in all fish samples examined, confirming Iraqi scientists’ suspicions that the fish kill was caused by a disease outbreak. They had observed white or brown patches on the gills of afflicted fish as critical clinical signs of an infection. Furthermore, the mortality only affected farmed carp and not wild fish. Virologic analysis commissioned by WHO and FAO – in Jordan and Italy respectively – also confirmed the Swiss laboratories’ findings.

“WHO was very concerned about this incident which could have posed a public health risk to communities in Babylon governorate and beyond. However, after confirming that the outbreak is due to a viral infection, WHO is confident that fish consumption has no effect on human health,” confirmed Mr. Mohamed Hamasha, Senior Environmental Health Expert and Mr. Soren Madison, Food Safety Adviser at WHO.

“High loads of Cyprinid herpesvirus DNA in the gill, kidney and brain fish tissue revealed that the carp suffered from the Koi Herpes Virus (KHV) disease,” affirmed Dr. Thomas Wahli, who heads the Swiss Reference Laboratory for Notifiable Diseases. “KHV is a very serious and lethal disease that is known to cause almost 100 percent mortality rates in carps,” he added. The Principal Virologist at the UK’s International Centre of Excellence for Aquatic Animal Health (CEFAS), Dr. Richard Paley, also agreed that “while overstocking and transient water quality issues such as low dissolved oxygen levels may have stressed the fish and helped propagate the virus, given the current information, one can reasonably conclude that the root cause of this mass fish kill episode is KHV disease.”

With Euphrates River water temperature dropping to 23-25°C in November, an optimal environment was created for the CyHV-3 virus, which flourishes between 16-28°C. Reports of similar small-scale fish kill incidents in multiple pockets in western and central Iraq further validated the occurrence of a wider epidemic.

“The outbreak may represent development of the disease in latently infected fish due to stressor events or perhaps more likely, based on the size of the event, introduction of infected animals into naïve stocks with no previous exposure or immune protection, indicating a recent introduction”, reckoned Dr. Paley.

“This is the first case of Koi Herpes Virus disease in Iraq, and it is a significant case report which will need to be notified to the World Organisation for Animal Health,” underlined Minister Alwan.

“We are pleased to have been able to get to the bottom of this difficult case and intend to build on this experience to improve our environmental surveillance and diagnostic capacity, particularly for viral diseases, so that we can properly investigate such events. Meanwhile, we need to control fish farm numbers and raise farmers’ awareness on the appropriate procedures to follow to prevent and rapidly contain similar outbreaks in the future,” he asserted.

(Source: UN Environment Programme)

By John Lee.

Local wheat production in Iraq could reach almost 3 million tonnes in the 2018-2019 season, up from 2.17 million tonnes in the previous year, according to Reuters.

While the total area of wheat planted using irrigation has fallen from one million hectares in the 2017-2018 season to 550,000 hectares this season, better rainfall will account for the increased production.

This is expected will cover 60 percent of the needs of Iraq’s food rationing programme, which needs between 4.5 million to 5 million tonnes of wheat annually.

(Source: Reuters)

By John Lee.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said that Moscow is very interested in increasing trade, economic and investment ties with Iraq.

Following a meeting on Wednesday with Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohamed Ali Alhakim, he said:

In the field of investment, especially in the hydrocarbon sector, there is a very good result. Lukoil, Gazprom Neft, SoyuzNefteGaz are already working, Rosneft is interested in projects in Iraq. The total investment in this industry has already exceeded $ 10 billion.

“We want to promote projects in other areas. Today we talked about electricity, agriculture, industry, transport – all this will be considered in the context of preparations for the next meeting of the Russian-Iraqi Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation.

He added that about 4 thousand Iraqi citizens are currently studying in universities of the Russian Federation, while dozens of diplomats from Iraq take part in special training courses at the Diplomatic Academy at the Russian Foreign Ministry.

(Source: Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

By John Lee.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said that Moscow is very interested in increasing trade, economic and investment ties with Iraq.

Following a meeting on Wednesday with Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohamed Ali Alhakim, he said:

In the field of investment, especially in the hydrocarbon sector, there is a very good result. Lukoil, Gazprom Neft, SoyuzNefteGaz are already working, Rosneft is interested in projects in Iraq. The total investment in this industry has already exceeded $ 10 billion.

“We want to promote projects in other areas. Today we talked about electricity, agriculture, industry, transport – all this will be considered in the context of preparations for the next meeting of the Russian-Iraqi Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation.

He added that about 4 thousand Iraqi citizens are currently studying in universities of the Russian Federation, while dozens of diplomats from Iraq take part in special training courses at the Diplomatic Academy at the Russian Foreign Ministry.

(Source: Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

By Fehim Tastekin for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Turkey has launched an effort to help resolve the water problem of neighboring Iraq amid bilateral tensions over decreasing flow rates in the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, whose waters the two countries share.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has appointed a special envoy to Iraq. Veysel Eroglu is a former forestry and water affairs minister who has been in Erdogan’s close entourage since the 1990s, when the president was mayor of Istanbul. Much in the style of a “water czar,” Eroglu has formed a special team of experts from various ministries and began work on an action plan for better water management in Iraq.

Though Baghdad’s initial reaction has been positive, Turkey’s prospective road map might fail to satisfy Iraqi expectations, given the two sides’ diverging views on the causes of water shortages and how the problem should be resolved.

Click here to read the full story.

WFP supports Iraq in modernising its Public Distribution System

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the Government of Iraq have launched an initiative to digitise the national public distribution system (PDS).

The first phase of digitisation will reach nearly 1.3 million people in and around Baghdad and Dohuk.

The PDS is Iraq’s biggest social safety net, providing food entitlements to almost the entire population in Iraq of 39 million people.

WFP is providing technical support to the government as it starts using identification technology and a citizen database to reduce processing time, improve service and maximise resources.

“The initiative guarantees the most efficient use of government resources and ensures that the intended citizens receive their food entitlement,” said WFP Country Director and Representative in Iraq Sally Haydock at the launch in Baghdad. “We’re using digitisation to better serve Iraqi citizens through this key social safety net.”

With WFP’s support, the government will move to a digitised system where citizens’ data is safely encrypted and stored, and where security is enhanced using fingerprints or iris scans. This will allow the government to identify and remove duplicate records as well as conduct biometric verification at the time of food collection. The new system replaces the current paper-based system.

WFP is also designing a mobile application, myPDS, that people can use to collect their entitlements as well as to update their family information about births, deaths and marriages – at their convenience, using personal smartphones.

“The ministry is working on updating data as we put in place technology-based solutions that address people’s needs,” said the Iraqi Minister of Trade Mohammed Hashem Al-Ani.

WFP is partnering on the initiative with the Iraqi Ministry of Trade. Modernising the PDS is one of the priorities of Iraq’s National Poverty Reduction Strategy (2018 – 2022). WFP’s partnership with the ministry dates to the early 1990s when WFP established a database for the PDS.

(Source: WFP)