Iraq’s drought crisis and the damaging effects on communities

Published 15. Dec 2021
Iraq is in the midst of a water scarcity crisis stemming from record low levels of rainfall, poor water resource management, and reductions in water flow into the Tigris and Euphrates rivers from upstream countries.

Drought conditions in Iraq have been exacerbated by the threat of climate change, which has contributed to record low rainfall and increasing temperatures throughout the country.

The drought has affected northern Iraq since early 2021, while governorates in the South have witnessed decreased water supply and quality for several years. Crop and livestock production have since plummeted, impacting vulnerable communities that have been affected by conflict and displacement over the last several years. At least seven million people in Iraq have been affected by the drought in recent times.

In November 2021, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in Iraq conducted an assessment on the impact of the drought on agriculture production in the 2020-2021 cropping season. More than 2,800 households were surveyed across farming communities in Anbar, Basra, Duhok, Kirkuk, Ninewa, Salah Al-Din, and Thi Qar governorates, which includes approximately 300 internally displaced and 1,500 returnees among respondents.

An additional survey was conducted with 100 food vendors and livestock traders, as well as 48 key informant interviews with community stakeholders and authorities, namely mukhtars and employees of the Directorates of Agriculture and Departments of Irrigation.

It shows that one in two families in drought-affected regions require food assistance because of drought, while one in five do not have sufficient food for everyone in the family.

Communities across Iraq have faced damaging losses to their crops, livestock, and income. Children are eating less, and farmers and displaced populations are hit hardest.

According to NRC’s research, which surveyed 2,800 households in drought-affected areas across the country:

  • 37% of wheat farmers and 30% of barley farmers have suffered crop failure of at least 90% of expected harvest.
  • 37% percent of households have lost cattle, sheep or goats in the last six months, mainly due to insufficient water, inadequate feed or disease.

The average monthly income in six out of seven governorates surveyed has dropped lower than the monthly survival threshold.