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Facts and Figures


AQUASTAT FAO's Information System on Water and Agriculture

Category Agriculture , Land and Water

Iraq, with a total area of 438 320 km2, is bordered by Turkey to the north, the Islamic Republic of Iran to the east, the Persian Gulf to the southeast, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to the south, and Jordan and the Syrian Arab Republic to the west. Topographically, Iraq is shaped like a basin, consisting of the Great Mesopotamian alluvial plain of the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers (Mesopotamia means, literally, the land between two rivers). This plain is surrounded by mountains in the north and the east, which can reach altitudes of 3 550 m above sea level, and by desert areas in the south and west, which account for over 40 percent of the land area. For administrative purposes, the country is divided into eighteen governorates, of which three (Arbil, Dahuk, and As Sulaymaniyah) are gathered in an autonomous region in the north and the other fifteen governorates are in central and southern Iraq. This division corresponds roughly to the rainfed northern agricultural zone and the irrigated central and southern zone.

It is estimated that about 11.5 million ha, or 26 percent of the total area of the country, are cultivable. The remaining part is not viable for agricultural use under current conditions and only a small strip situated along the extreme northern border with Turkey and the Islamic Republic of Iran is under forest and woodlands. The total cultivated area is estimated at about 6 million ha, of which almost 50 percent in northern Iraq under rainfed conditions. Less than 5 percent is occupied by permanent crops (Table 1). Permanent pasture covers around 4 million ha. Livestock grazing occurs throughout all agricultural zones, but is more widespread in the north where hillside grazing prevails. Small ruminants (mainly sheep and goats) are the main livestock species. However, beef cattle have been the traditional source of dietary protein for most Iraqis. Poultry production occurs in close proximity to urban centres.