Turkish farmers blame extreme drought on climate change

Endless swathes of cracked earth, shrinking lakes ...

Turkey has been hit with a lingering drought.

In the southeastern part of the country, rain fell on Bicar Icli's fields for the first time in eight months in October.

He blames climate change for the extreme drought.

Icli has been working his fields in Diyarbakir province for five years.

He says he has not been able to plant his winter wheat crops due to the parched soils.

"You see, it needs to rain for months so these drops can reach the underground water. Right now, it will rain for two to three days but it is unclear what will happen after that. We believe that we are facing the worst drought in recent years because unfortunately, the rain have not fallen on these lands for the past eight years."

As world leaders met in Glasgow for the COP26 climate summit, Icli's woes highlight the problem facing farmers in Turkey and elsewhere due to extreme weather.

In an effort to limit financial losses, farmers are trying to make savings by skipping on fertilizer.

Chairman Abdulsamet Ucaman, of Diyarbakir's agricultural chamber, says the issue is more than cause for concern.

"This has surpassed the level of concern, it is turning into a catastrophe. Because the precipitation we were waiting for did not arrive, the farmers could not plant the seed and fertilizers and they are waiting."

Environmentalists say climate change and aggressive farming methods have fuelled the risk of water shortages.

Official data from 2020 showed water levels at dams had fallen to record lows due to a lack of rainfall.

President Tayyip Erdogan says the data indicate Turkey's usable water supplies would keep shrinking.

"The precipitation is lower than the world average. In climate change scenarios, it is foreseen that in the southern part of our country the precipitation in winter is likely to decrease between 5% - 20% and in the summer, it is likely to decrease between 10 % - 40%. This data shows that our water potential, which we are already not rich in, will further decrease in the coming years."

In October, Ankara became the last member of the G20 economies to ratify the Paris climate agreement.

Icli says he fears actions to tackle carbon emissions in line with the agreement are too late.

"This is a serious problem. Turkey signed the Paris climate agreement, but what will happen now? We destroyed nature, we destroyed our underground resources. So I don't see the meaning of the climate accord after that. But the measures we will take from now on are nevertheless important. I believe that all farmers should be mindful on these matters. At the same time, I believe that the government needs to (revisit) these agricultural policies."

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