Blaming climate change, Turkish farmers count drought cost

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FILE PHOTO: Men chat at the edge of partially drained waters near the Alibeykoy Dam, north of Istanbul, Turkey September 16, 2020. REUTERS / Umit Bektas / File Photo reuters_tickers

This content was published on October 31, 2021 – 07:15

By Umit Ozdal

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Reuters) – Rain fell on the fields of Bicar Icli in southeastern Turkey for the first time in eight months last week, but he and other farmers are already counting the cost of a drought they attribute to climate change.

Icli was unable to plant his winter wheat crops due to the parched soil. Unless there is no more rain in the coming weeks, he fears it will be too late.

“There is a serious problem here in my opinion, there is a much greater risk than in previous years,” said Icli, who has been working his fields in Diyarbakir province for five years.

As world leaders prepare to gather in Glasgow for the UN climate summit COP26 on Sunday https://www.reuters.com/business/cop, Icli’s woes highlight the issues facing faced farmers in Turkey and elsewhere due to extreme weather conditions linked to climate change.

In an effort to limit their financial losses, Suleyman Iskenderoglu said he and other farmers were trying to save money by skipping on fertilizers.

“How to produce under these conditions? he said looking at his sunny fields.

Besides the persistent drought, Turkey has been hit by flash floods in its Black Sea region and massive forest fires in the southern regions during the summer.

Environmentalists say climate change and aggressive farming methods fueled the risk of water scarcity, which surfaced in late 2020 as official data showed water levels in dams had fallen to record levels in due to a lack of precipitation.

At the Diyarbakir Chamber of Agriculture, President Abdulsamet Ucaman said farmers have seen their production drop by 60-70% this year compared to 2020.

“It has passed the worry level, it is turning into a disaster,” he said.

President Tayyip Erdogan said data from last week indicated that the country’s usable water supplies would continue to decline.

“Turkey is not a country rich in water,” he said. “These data show that our water potential, of which we are not already rich, will decline further in the years to come.”

Earlier this month, Ankara became the latest member of the major G20 economies to ratify the Paris climate agreement.

Icli said he was concerned that action to tackle carbon emissions under the deal was too late.

“Turkey has signed the Paris climate agreement, but what will happen now?” he said. “We destroyed nature … so I don’t see the meaning of the climate deal after that.”

(Additional reporting by Yesim Dikmen and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Writing by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Helen Popper)


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