(1) New York Times article –Earth Is Parched Where Syrian Farms Thrived
“The farmlands spreading north and east of this Euphrates River town were once the breadbasket of the region, a vast expanse of golden wheat fields and bucolic sheep herds.
Now, after four consecutive years of drought, this heartland of the Fertile Crescent — including much of neighboring Iraq
— appears to be turning barren, climate scientists say. Ancient irrigation systems have collapsed, underground water sources have run dry and hundreds of villages have been abandoned as farmlands turn to cracked desert and grazing animals die off. Sandstorms have become far more common, and vast tent cities of dispossessed farmers and their families have risen up around the larger towns and cities of Syria and Iraq
“It is ironic: this region is the origin of wheat and barley, and now it is among the biggest importers of these products,” said Rami Zurayk, a professor of agricultural and food science at the American University in Beirut who is writing a book on the farming crisis.”
When RW interviewed me, I talked to him for about an hour, and I insisted on the following:
1. Droughts are recurrent events in this region and they have always resulted in population displacement, which can be temporary. This is what needs to be addressed and prevented. As a matter of fact, Syria has managed its farm sector much better than most neighboring countries, given its ecological limitations.
2. The war in Iraq is the war by the US on the Iraqi people and land, starting with the embargo and still going on. Lets call things by their names. The scale of the destruction brought about by the US onto Iraq, and especially its food sector, is unmatched by any climatic event. And putting Iraq’s food sector into the hands of US based corporations, as Paul Bremer did, will only make Iraq more reliant on foreign inputs for its food and farming.