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Two-week severe frost hits crops

Arbitrary grazing has worsened the effects of a two-week long frost spell.
(Mohammad Ben Hussein/IRIN)

A two-week-long frost that has killed crops over a 5,000sqkm area in Jordan is being blamed on global climate change, rapid desertification and shrinking water surfaces locally, according to environmentalists.

[Read this report in Arabic]

The impact of the unusually heavy frost has been exacerbated by desertification caused in part by a recent hike in fodder prices: Last year, the government lifted subsidies on fodder, leading prices to nearly double. Herders were unable to cope and unleashed their livestock onto the grassland.

"Arbitrary grazing has wiped out much of the green cover in the southern and middle parts of the kingdom, and greenery is known to play a significant role in absorbing part of the cold temperature during frost spells," said Abul Rahman Sultan, project manager at Friends of the Earth Middle East.

Sultan also blamed the devastating effect of the frost on the disappearance of surface water: "One third of the Dead Sea has evaporated over the past five decades, while the Jordan and Yarmouk rivers, as well as the Azraq basin, have lost much of their water resources."

Sultan said water surfaces protect the land during sub-zero temperatures because "they work as a buffer" against extreme cold.

''One third of the Dead Sea has evaporated over the past five decades, while the Jordan and Yarmouk rivers, as well as the Azraq basin, have lost much of their water resources.''

Officials from Jordan's meteorological department said frost appeared this year two months earlier than usual: "Frost usually appears around the end of February or early March. This is the first time it has come so early," said Abdul Halim Abu Hazim, head of the meteorological department.

Meteorologists said they were also "puzzled" by the length of the frost spell, saying such a long frost had last occurred in 1993.

Initial results showed many farmers in southern regions had lost 50-80 percent of their products, according to President of the Jordan Farmers Union (JFU) Ahmad Faour. "I am afraid some farmers have lost everything."

Banana farms in the north are believed to have been destroyed. Other crops affected include zucchinis, potatoes, beans and peppers.

Government compensation, advice to farmers

The government has formed a committee to assess the extent of damage as a first step towards compensating farmers.

The committee is in the midst of an awareness campaign to explain to farmers how to deal with the frost; it urged farmers to increase the amount of irrigation water fed to crops. Farmers have also been encouraged to light fires near crops to warm the surrounding area and prevent the onset of frost.

Prime Minister Nader Dahabi on 15 January said his government would compensate all farmers who have been affected.

Frost has also damaged over 2,000 water gauges and over 400 water pipes in northern and southern areas. Water Ministry personnel were working round the clock to repair the damage, according to ministry sources.

Officials fear the impact of the frost could get worse as sub-zero temperatures are expected to continue in various parts of Jordan until the end of the week.

mbh/ar/cb


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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