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Farmers in Southern Iran Protest Rice-Planting Ban

In this photo shared on social media, Iranian farmers gather outside the Khuzestan provincial government complex in the southern city of Ahvaz, May 16, 2018, to protest a provincial ban on rice-planting due to water shortages. The protesters hold a sign saying, “We need water to make a living – Rice farmers of Khuzestan.”

Rice farmers in a southern Iranian province are protesting a local government decision to ban rice planting because of water shortages.

Iran’s state-run ILNA news agency said a group of rice farmers denounced the ban at a rally Wednesday outside the Khuzestan provincial governorate building in the city of Ahvaz. It said the farmers have staged several protests at the site in recent days.

ILNA quoted the protesters as saying the ban on cultivating rice in the coming year threatens to destroy their livelihood. Khuzestan’s agricultural department said it declared the ban because rice planting requires more water than other crops, and water has been in short supply in the province for months.

Iranian authorities have urged local farmers to plant soya or other beans instead of rice. But farmers have said rice is crucial to their livelihood because it earns them more money than beans.

ILNA said the protesting farmers also complained that provincial officials have not responded to their appeals for a lifting of the rice-planting ban.

Southern Iran has seen sporadic protests related to water shortages for months. Mismanagement of the region’s water resources and below-average levels of rainfall have contributed to the problem.

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA’s Persian Service.