Soil salinity management in central and southern Iraq

Place: iraq, Asia
Sustainable management of natural resources Sustainable management of natural resources
Total Budget: € 853.000,00 | Period: From January 2010 To December 2013


The Iraq Salinity Initiative, funded by the Australian Centre for
International Research (ACIAR), AusAID and the Italian Government
was designed in 2010 for the Government of Iraq and for the Iraq farmers by a group of international agencies led by ICARDA– the Internaonal Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas to solve the problems of Iraq’s salty soils and salty irrigation water.

Its goal is to ensure the country’s long‐term food security, by beer
understanding the current salinity situation in the country and
producing a framework and interventions to reduce and manage
salinity over the long term. The Initiative is producing a detailed
scientific assessment of the situation, and tools, capacity building
and technical support to Iraqi’s government agencies and
agricultural services.


International Center for Agricultural research in the Dry Areas - Lebanon

Lead applicant

ICARDA’s Vision is improved livelihoods of the resource-poor in the dry areas. ICARDA’s Mission is to contribute to the improvement of livelihoods of the resource-poor in dry areas by enhancing food security and alleviating poverty through research and partnerships to achieve sustainable increases in agricultural productivity and income, while ensuring the efficient and more equitable use and conservation of natural resources. ICARDA has a global Mandate for the improvement of barley, lentil and faba bean and serves the non-tropical dry areas for the improvement of on-farm water-use efficiency, rangeland and small-ruminant production. ICARDA’s research portfolio is structured under four themes: • Biodiversity and Integrated Gene Management • Integrated Water and Land Management • Diversification and Sustainable Intensification of Production Systems • Social, Economic and Policy Research Alongside research, and integrated within it, capacity development (training) lies at the heart of ICARDA’s purpose. ICARDA works with partners such as national research/extension agencies, NGOs, development investors, universities, specialized research institutes, farmer cooperatives, and with the private sector.

The International Center for Biosaline Agriculture - United Arab Emirates

Initiative partner

The Center originally focused on the problems of salinity and using saline water for irrigated agriculture. Over the last 13 years, ICBA has evolved into a world‐class modern research facility with a team of international scientists conducting applied research to improve the well‐being of poor farmers in marginal environments. In 2013, the Center developed a new strategic direction addressing the closely linked challenges of income, water, nutrition, and food security. The new Strategy takes innovation as a core principle and identifies five innovations that form the core research agenda: assessment of natural resources; climate change adaptation; crop productivity and diversification; aquaculture and bioenergy, and policy analysis. ICBA is working on a number of technology developments including the use of conventional and nonconventional water (such as saline, treated wastewater, industrial water and seawater); water and land management technologies; remote sensing and modeling for climate change adaptation.

Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation - Australia

Initiative partner

CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, is Australia's national science agency and one of the largest and most diverse research agencies in the world with more than 6500 staff located across 56 sites throughout Australia and overseas. CSIRO collaborates with many international partners on fundamental research and innovation for development. They also commercialize their technology and provide consulting and technical services to many countries. CSIRO is ranked in the top one per cent of world scientific institutions in 14 of 22 research fields. CSIRO manages three National Research Facilities:  Australian Animal Health Laboratory at Geelong  Australia Telescope at Parkes, Coonabarabran and Narrabri  the oceanographic research vessel Southern Surveyor. It host various national reference collections which are available to industry and research partners. Some of these facilities and collections are accessible on a fee‐for‐service basis.

International Water Management Institute - Sri Lanka

Initiative partner

IWMI’s research focuses on the key water challenges poor communities faceissues that affect people’s livelihoods and health, as well as the integrity of the environmental services on which they depend. Research thus examines the “water‐food‐environment nexus”, adopting a multi‐disciplinary approach and balancing efficiency and productivity objectives with equity and sustainability concerns. Seven key Research Themes help IWMI to more effectively produce impact for the benefit of poor farmers, whose livelihoods depend on agriculture and for whom access to water for productive purposes is a key constraint. IWMI recognizes the scope for a more proactive role in knowledge application to increase impact‐particularly by interacting closely with other research institutes, policymakers, donors, partners and user communities.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs - General Directorate for Development Cooperation - Italy

Initiative partner

L’organizzazione delle attività di Cooperazione allo Sviluppo, componente essenziale della politica internazionale dell'Italia, fa parte dei compiti del Ministero degli Affari Esteri (MAE), che demanda tali attività alla Direzione Generale per la Cooperazione allo Sviluppo (DGCS) che è l’organo preposto ad attuare tale politica, in attuazione della legge n.49/87. La DGCS attua le linee di cooperazione e le politiche di settore nei diversi Paesi, stabilisce rapporti con le Organizzazioni Internazionali, con l’Unione Europea e con le Organizzazioni non governative; programma, elabora ed applica gli indirizzi della politica di cooperazione e le politiche di settore tra cui sanità, ambiente e sviluppo imprenditoria locale; realizza iniziative e progetti nei Pvs; effettua interventi di emergenza e fornisce aiuti alimentari; gestisce la cooperazione finanziaria e il sostegno all’imprenditoria privata e alla bilancia dei pagamenti dei Pvs; promuove e realizza la cooperazione universitaria.

The Salinity Project, funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), AusAID and the Italian Directorate General for Development Cooperation, was created in 2010 to understand the current salinity crisis and improve livelihoods through sustainable use of available water and soil resources in central and southern Iraq. It aims to evaluate the economic impact of salinity and produce a “road‐map” to manage the problem over a 15 year time frame. The project presents solutions and implementations based on an extensive research. This research includes field‐level and technical studies in southern and central Iraq, an updated body of data and information collected and compiled by the research team, and a series of technical and background papers.

Three synthesis reports were compiled based on technical and socioeconomic assessments at
multiple scales. Each report represents a stage in the process of analysis:
• Stage 1/Report 1: Overview and scope of the problem
• Stage 2/Report 2: A detailed analysis of the problems and potential solutions and
development of a framework for a national, integrated approach to salinity management in Iraq

• Stage 3/Report 3: Investment options to support a long‐term strategy of soil and
water salinity management in Iraq.

Soil Salinity Project Main innovation produced2
Soil Salinity Project Main innovation produced

Iraq faces a growing agricultural crisis driven by increasing levels of salinity in its soil and
irrigation water that is reducing the country’s food production and threatens its food security.
Today, some 70% of the country’s irrigated area suffers from varying levels of salinity.
An estimated 25,000 hectares of farmland are abandoned every year, left uncultivable by
elevated salt levels. This is caused by a combination of inadequate drainage and high salt
levels in irrigation in the irrigated areas of South and Central Iraq.
The Iraq Salinity Initiative was designed to ensure the country’s long‐term food security, by
understanding the current salinity situation in the country and producing a framework and
interventions to reduce and manage salinity over the long term. The Initiative is producing a
detailed scientific assessment of the situation, and tools, capacity building and technical
support to Iraqi’s government agencies and agricultural services.

Soil Salinity Project Background
Soil Salinity Project Background

Provide an accurate description of the current status of salinity, water availability & water
quality and agriculture. Identifies a set of key findings and uses a framework of scale and
salinity level solutions. Advises the Government of Iraq and the international donor
community on the best areas for investment to improve agricultural production under the
threat of salinization. The four main areas of investment are identified as ‘enabling actions’,
‘land and production systems’, ‘water systems’, and ‘knowledge systems’. Suggested
investments are categorized using a system of investment size and implementation time

../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Synthesis report 2 Synthesis report 2

The Government of Iraq. Indirect beneficiaries are the farmers, whether the conservation
technique suggested by the project are implemented, giving them the possibility to operate
concretely land reclamation and increasing the local capacity of producing food.

Soil Salinity Project Beneficiaries
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Call for action Call for action
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Soil Salinity in Iraq – Syntheses report 1 Soil Salinity in Iraq – Syntheses report 1

The project team consisted of five Iraqi Ministries and five international consulting
institution., The team of ministries was led by the MoA, with support from the Ministry of
Water Resources, Ministry of Higher Education, Ministry of Science and Technology and
Ministry of Environment. The international component of the consortium was comprised of
ICARDA (the lead institution), CSIRO, University of Western Australia, IWMI, and ICBA. More
than 50 individual scientists were involved in the project execution.
The stakeholders were broadly constituted and included the partner ministries involved in the
project team, representatives of governorates, local representatives of the ministries involved
in water management and agricultural development, as well as national and local
6 universities. Farmers were identified as indirect stakeholders in the development of the
salinity management strategies, but as direct stakeholders in the field‐based interventions

Soil Salinity Project Human Resources

Salinity in Iraq is a complicated and ongoing issue and short‐term projects for two to three
years will not solve the problem in the long term. No comprehensive study has been
undertaken to assess the extent of irrigation‐induced salinity. The monitoring network to
record spatial and temporal changes and characterize the salt‐affected soils in the different
parts of the country is almost non‐existent. The monitoring and evaluation activities faced
great difficulties because of the severe security conditions.

Soil Salinity Project Difficulties

The project generated an increased knowledge of and interest in the development of a salinity
management framework approach at the level of the Mesopotamian plain. Further support
activities through the Ministry of Water Resources, sponsored by the Italian government, are
building upon the analyses conducted in the project. The CGIAR research program (CRP) has selected the Tigris‐Euphrates basin for further research and development activities building upon the current project results. Interest in and further development of remote sensing techniques to evaluate Iraq's agricultural production and the effects of soil salinity have been developed by the Iraq government 7 and universities. Field applications to improve water and land management in the salinity‐affected areas have been adopted in the strategy to improve agriculture and avoid further desertification and lands abandon in Iraq through the Harmonized Support for Agricultural Development (HSAD) project funded by USAID.

Soil Salinity Project Environmental Impact

for the training activities developed during the programme increased the self capacity of
the ministries engaged in the initiative facilitating national institutions in having a possible
long‐term impact. A ‘training of trainers’ approach was taken for several of the
international training sessions, giving the opportunities for follow‐up existing as incoming
actions, funded by local or international financial resources. Through the involvement of the
Ministry of Higher Education, some of the universities in Iraq will have the potential to
continue the capacity development of future students. The Japanese International
Cooperation Agency (JICA) has contacted ICARDA for follow‐up on land drainage and land
reclamation courses based on the knowledge obtained through the project. The initiative
gave, for the first time, to the personnel of the different ministries the possibility to
collaborate together, sharing opinions and data for a common goal.

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Communication and dissemination activities have been integral parts of the project. The
communication activities focused both on internal project communication as well as
external communication. The internal communication involved several ministries, as well as
groups of international support institutes and were available through an ICT platform were
8 all the actors could deposit and take out the relevant documentation. Communication
covered the issues of science, policy, and project processes. The scientific communication
has resulted in the publication of 24 technical reports and three syntheses reports.
Additional communication of scientific results has been through scientific conferences and
journal papers. The main results and observations on water and salt balances, the extent of
soil salinity, and salinity management activities in Iraq will be included in a salinity‐themed
wiki currently under construction at ICARDA.

../file-system/small/docx ../file-system/small/docx Soil Salinity in Iraq – Final Report Soil Salinity in Iraq – Final Report