Water scarcity has a negative impact on agricultural and food production in the Syrian Arab Republic. In addition to the burdens accumulated during years of crisis, farmers face challenging production circumstances because of drought and lack of water resources. This water scarcity has led to conflict between neighbours over the fair allocation of water for irrigation.
The experience of Youssef Saliba, a farmer and a fruit producer in Durbul village in Rural Damascus, is typical: “I understand that my neighbour has the right to get his or her share of water for irrigation. However, we constantly argue over our shares of water so we can produce a sufficient quantity of fruits to provide enough income for our families.” He added that the farmers in Durbul had never reached an agreement on how to share the very limited water resources in the village, and there was no collective experience in managing the available resources.
Fruit producers need water to increase the production of apples, cherries, apricots and other fruits, but the damaged irrigation infrastructure and scarce rainfall have limited their production. Some farmers had even abandoned their lands to pursue other livelihood opportunities because of the lack of water resources.
FAO in Syria, with the support of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), has conducted light rehabilitation works in Durbul, which included the installation of irrigation pipelines, repair of water gates, installation of solar-powered pumping system and the rehabilitation of the irrigation system to ensure sustainable access to water. Moreover, FAO supported the creation and training of a water users association, a community-based entity, whose role is to schedule and operate water access for 510 farmers and fruit producers based on the size of their land and crops needs. As a result, the farmers in Durbul are now able to irrigate more than 115 ha of land and avoid conflict with one another.
“The farmers are excited to restore their farming activities! Some of them have planted cherry saplings because they now have a guarantee of having enough water,” said Youssef. “In addition, the water user association’s members are operating the water fairly for the farmers, which resolved any arguments or conflicts over it,” he added.
From 2014 to 2021, FAO, with the support of FCDO, successfully assisted more than 95 000 vulnerable farming families (approximately 570 000 people) through a variety of projects that have boosted vegetable and cereal production, supported animal health and provided veterinary services. The partnership between FAO and FCDO has also focused on increasing water availability for farmers by rehabilitating pumping equipment in Deir Ez-Zor, Homs and Rural Damascus Governorates, benefitting more than 5 000 farming families who have restored their farming activities and improved their livelihoods.