In Iraq and Jordan, barley-livestock systems rarely provide a dependable means of food supply and income for farmers. Limited access to inputs, fragmented extension and research programs, and unsustainable farming practices lead to increased poverty and insecurity. In this scenario, crop diseases and pests become more common, the natural resource base becomes degraded, and crop productivity suffers.
These already severe problems are complicated by climate variability and the increased incidence of drought. In recent years, barley farmers in both countries have experienced significant losses during prolonged dry spells. Areas harvested with barley decreased by 50 per cent in Jordan in 2008, and declined from 750,000 ha to only 25,000-75,000 ha when drought struck northern Iraq in 2008 and 2009.
In the coming decades, climatologists predict more frequent climatic extremes: longer droughts, more intense storms, and extreme low temperatures that will damage or destroy crops and vegetation unable to adapt.
There is an added incentive for government to address the threats of climate variability. Given that livestock in Jordan is dependent on subsidized barley and imported grain for at least five months of the year, improving livestock productivity per head and feed sustainability should be explicit priorities for the Jordanian government.