Syrian wheat farmers are facing serious challenges to sustain their livelihoods, despite the overall improved security situation in the country. Wheat production has been severely affected by the ongoing crisis, particularly in Al-Hasakeh and Deir-ez-Zor – two of the major wheat-producing governorates.
Prior to the crisis in the Syrian Arab Republic, 1.5 million ha of land were under irrigation and 4 million tonnes of wheat were produced annually, ensuring self-sufficiency for bread – the country’s major staple food. Consecutive joint assessments conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) have found a decrease in food production and the adoption of negative coping mechanisms.
During the 2017/18 cropping season, below-average rainfall in the first three months led to a further reduction in the production of wheat and barley. The areas planted for wheat were reduced by about half compared with the previous two seasons. The domestic production of wheat was estimated to be 1.2 million tonnes in 2018, which is lower than the previous year and much lower than pre-crisis production levels.
This year’s season was classified as one of the worst in more than 20 years, due to the combination of drought and late rainfall, which affected both rain-fed and irrigated production. Many farmers left their land, while those who have remained do not have access to quality seeds and inputs. Farmers therefore use seeds from their own production or purchase from unreliable sources.
Access to good quality, certified seeds is now one of the biggest challenges for smallholders, together with the availability of water and fertilizer. For the current planting season, which takes place in November and December 2018, the lack of good quality seeds is the main concern.
Thanks to a generous Belgian contribution of USD 400 000, through the Special Fund for Emergency and Rehabilitation (SFERA), FAO aims to improve the food security and nutrition of drought-affected farmers in the Syrian Arab Republic through distributing quality seeds and inputs for resumption of increased wheat production. This partnership will benefit 1 850 families (11 100 people) in Al-Hasakeh and Deir-ez-Zor, who will also receive training on good agricultural practices.