Agriculture and rural life in the Middle East have gone through several changes in the past few decades. The region is characterized by high population growth, urbanization, and water scarcity, which poses a challenge to maintaining food security and production. This paper investigates agricultural and rural challenges in the Duhok governorate of Iraqi Kurdistan from biophysical, political, and socio-economic perspectives. Satellite data is used to study land use and productivity, while a review of government policies and interview data show the perspectives of the government and the local population. Our results reveal that these perspectives are not necessarily in line with each other, nor do they correspond well with the biophysical possibilities. While the government has been trying to increase agricultural productivity, satellite data show that yields have been declining since 2000. Furthermore, a lack of services in rural areas is driving people to cities to seek better opportunities, which means that the local population’s incentive to increase agricultural activity is low. Governmental plans suggest land extensification to increase production and self-sufficiency, but the land use classification shows little available land. Instead, we recommend supporting small-scale traditional agriculture development as a more sustainable and feasible alternative. Additionally, more resources need to be focused on improving rural infrastructure and services to increase access to education and health care as a means of gaining support from the local population.


  • Agriculture is one of the drivers of global environmental change

  • This study focuses on the Duhok governorate, which is situated in the northwestern part of study the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KR-I)

  • The results of this study show the agricultural situation in Iraqi Kurdistan from three perspectives, the biophysical, the political, and the socio-economic

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Earth’s ice-free land surface is covered by croplands [1], and investments in agricultural development have in recent decades led to increased productivity [2]. Despite these recent gains, roughly one in ten people globally is undernourished due to poverty and high food prices [3]. This could be exacerbated by volatility in food prices stemming from market speculation, political instability, or climatic shocks (droughts, floods, etc.) [4]. There is growing emphasis on the need to make assessments that integrate both social and natural aspects of the Earth’s system


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