“The long years of crisis left us poor, we couldn’t afford to buy bread for the family,” said Fiya Hassan, 66, who is a grandmother of eight children from Ibtaa sub district of Daraa Governorate in southwest Syria. “I spent my entire life farming; this is what I do,’’ she said.
Thousands of vulnerable Syrians have been affected by the crisis, many have been displaced, and others have lost their homes. Fiya, together with her family, went through difficult times; during armed clashes, a missile burned their house down, and they struggled to meet their basic daily needs. Despite all this, she was determined not to leave her homeland.
Lack of resources for essential agricultural inputs prevented thousands of vulnerable farmers from carrying out the agricultural activities needed to sustain their livelihoods. Food baskets received are only a temporary solution when set against this underlying need, and the desire to be self-reliant.
“In the past, farming was considered a traditional practice in the region, and there were other ways to earn a living, but after the crisis things have changed, it is now the only way to survive and provide our families with nutritious food,” stated Fiya. Fiya recalled,“Jamal, my son who cared for our land, passed away a few years ago, from that day nobody worked on the land, not even me.”
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is supporting rural families, like Fiya and her family, whose circumstances did not allow them to restart farming for lack of the essential agricultural inputs. FAO, with the generous contribution of Kuwait, has reached 3 000 rural families in Daraa and As-Suwayda governorates with seasonal vegetable seedlings.
Fiya said that she received tomato, eggplant and sweet pepper seedlings from FAO. “This encouraged me to start farming again,’’ Fiya said, “I cannot describe my feelings once I saw my crops growing, seeing my land green again filled me with hope.” Fiya managed to harvest 1 500 kg of tomato and eggplant, sufficient to meet her family’s food requirements for five months. “The color green means hope to me,” Fiya said, “and when my land is green, this reminds me of my son who always loved farming just as I do.”
Many farmers want to return home after their displacement, but for many it is a distant dream; they have lost everything including their homes. According to the Humanitarian Needs Overview 2019, more than 9.3 million people in Syria are food insecure. Ten years of conflict have affected the lives and nutritional status of the most vulnerable people, including women and children. On top of this, the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the situation further.
FAO and Kuwait’s partnership aims to support vulnerable farmers in the Syrian Arab Republic by boosting their food security and nutrition. The partners have agreed to provide any possible support, mainly provision of agricultural production inputs and resources to guarantee that people can sustain their access to food and improve their living situation.