Think of Iraq and the first thing that comes to mind is probably not land registration. You would be excused for thinking that all that is currently happening in Iraq is what you see on the news.
Based on the ministerial visit we had from Iraqi Kurdistan to our Head Office last week, we know that is only part of the story.
Where is Iraqi Kurdistan?
The Kurdistan Region of the Republic of Iraq is a ‘constitutionally recognized semiautonomous’ region of northern Iraq. It is nestled between Turkey to its north, Syria to its west and Iran to its east.
Kurdistan was once known as the ‘bread basket of Iraq,’ renowned for its fertile land and fresh produce, including wheat and barley. Kurdistan’s agricultural richness is ancient. ‘The first crops were planted on the fertile plains seven millennia ago.’ It is hoped that Iraqi Kurdistan will one day return to its agricultural prime: producing enough fresh vegetables, fruit, meat, dairy and poultry to feed its population and be distributed around the Middle East and North Africa.
Decades of conflict and violence, anti-Kurdish policies and limited modern farming practice left much of the region’s agricultural land under-utilised or unusable. Today, although Kurdistan has approximately 1.5 million hectares of irrigated land and environmental conditions suitable for growing a wide range of products, agriculture only accounts for 10% of the economy (2012). The region is heavily dependent on imported food which is not sustainable and is a burden on the economy.
Why a ministerial visit?
Agriculture is a major priority for Iraqi Kurdistan with food security and self-sufficiency high on the agenda. Last week, we hosted a delegation from Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources (MOAWR) at our head office. They were in the UK on a fact-finding mission and to meet with UK government officials.
The delegation met with Land Registry’s Director of Legal Services, Head of Strategy and International Unit staff. They also met Rory Stewart MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Environment and Rural Affairs at Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). They met representatives from Department for International Development (DFID) and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Kurdistan Region in Iraq.
The delegation included the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources and the Director General of MOAWR.
Why HM Land Registry?
I felt enormous pride to be responsible for communications during the ministerial visit and to witness the delegation’s genuine interest in the register. Iraqi Kurdistan has gone through a turbulent period, which resulted in the region being recognised by Iraq. The region still has a long way to go to achieve its goal of food self-sufficiency. The Kurdistan Regional Government is keen to update its land register. This will focus particularly on the utilisation of land and property, which will enable them to use their agricultural land as effectively as possible.
The visit last week provided an opportunity for us to share our achievements in land registration. Also to show off the excellent, hard work of our operations staff, by giving the delegation a demonstration of the title register. The visit to Head Office demonstrated how our staff work tirelessly to maintain the integrity of the register.
The examples of best practice the delegation were shown will hopefully leave them feeling inspired that with an effective, integral land register, anything is possible.