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23 May 2013

UNESCO Press Release - towards an agricultural thrive in Iraq

Baghdad, 22 May 2013, UNESCO, FAO, and the Ministry of Agriculture in Iraq took a substantial step towards a true reform in the agricultural sector in the country as two key studies providing critical information were accomplished, in addition to a training workshop that enables ministry officials to benefit from this information to modernize the agricultural sector.
Under the framework of a joint project that aims to set a comprehensive strategy for sustainable development of the agricultural sector, UNESCO carried out during the past months two surveys at the national level to study labour and the investment climate in the agricultural sector in Iraq. These studies have led to producing an insight into the reality of the labour force and investment level in this sector, and to identifying the characteristics of the agricultural and agro-industrial sectors in order to develop an Agricultural Investment Strategy and a National Agricultural Policy.
Covering this information deficit, the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), FAO, and UNESCO Office in Iraq joined efforts again to organize a workshop from 19 to 21 May 2013 to train the ministry officials on the use of the data and improve their capacities in strategic planning and policy making in order to lead a sustainable growth of the agricultural sector.
As a final activity of this project, this three-day workshop gathered 14 policy makers: officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Water Resources, members of the Policy and Strategy Support Unit in the Ministry of Agriculture (PSSU), and representatives of Central Office for Statistics and Information Technology; in addition to other stakeholders of the agricultural sector. The training programme strengthened the practical skills of participants in policy making and in thinking independently in a world where most countries have liberalized agricultural policies leading to extreme competition in global agricultural markets.
Dr. Saad Hatem Mohamed, a prominent Agricultural Economist and member of the PSSU, stated that “the experience gained during this intensive workshop will certainly contribute to a better vision and a more informed approach in discussing issues and challenges facing the agricultural sector.”     
Dr. Faris Hussien, an expert in the Directorate of Agricultural Economy, said that he was “very impressed by the level of expertise provided and by the very convenient timing for holding such a workshop", since the PSSU will be discussing the draft policy documents of the Agricultural sector next week.
"This workshop concludes a very successful project that will have an instant impact on the agricultural scene in Iraq", stated UNESCO project director Ilaria Vanzin. "Now that the data and knowledge are available, the Iraqi government has the powerful tools to develop the needed plans to address the current challenges and lead the growth of the agricultural sector", added Mrs. Vanzin.  
Employing around 20 per cent of the Iraqi workforce and contributing to 8 per cent of the total GDP, the agricultural sector is essential for the economic and social security in Iraq. Realizing this fact, UNESCO and FAO are supporting the ministry of agriculture in developing a national strategy for the agricultural sector in Iraq. This informed strategy will enable the government of Iraq, private sector, land owners and farmers to develop comprehensive responses to the current challenges in this field, and adapt the best practices and policies for a modernized and thriving agricultural sector.

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