Syrian Mom Grows Vegetable Garden to Feed Her Children
More than 10 million people in Syria need food assistance
“I was trained very well on agriculture. I learned how to prepare compost from home components.”
July 2018 — Even as Syria’s civil war grinds into its seventh year, Fatima* is learning to grow vegetables and discovering that, like hope, vegetables spring eternal.
“Besides fulfilling our [own] needs, sometimes I give vegetables to our neighbors,” said Fatima, a mother of five, a school teacher — and now a budding gardener — in Al Hasakah governorate in northeast Syria.
Fatima and her husband both have jobs. But even with two incomes, they can barely feed their children. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon in Syria. The homegrown vegetables have helped Fatima lower her family’s food costs and save money for other needed items.
Fatima’s family is one of 300 in Al Hasakah who are learning the art of homestead vegetable gardening, with support from USAID’s Office of Food for Peace. With just a little help, Fatima and her neighbors have demonstrated that vegetables really can help make ends meet.
More than 10 million Syrians currently need food assistance to get by. The war has crippled the economy, destroyed local infrastructure and damaged the agricultural sector. More than 6 million Syrians have fled the country entirely, seeking safety in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and beyond.
Of those who have stayed, no one feels the food shortages more than families with small children like Fatima’s. Parents skip meals to ensure their children get enough to eat.
In Al Hasakah, nearly half the population depends on agriculture as a source of income. But the war has limited access to seeds and planting supplies, and scarcity has driven up prices. Food is just too expensive for most Syrians, with families spending an astonishing 80 percent of their income just to eat.
Two years ago, USAID and an NGO partner started a program in Al Hasakah to teach 300 families homestead vegetable production. The program provided vital training in modern cultivation methods and rainwater harvesting. Participants received gardening supplies, including farming tools and seeds, which many had lost in the conflict.
After Fatima completed the training and started growing vegetables, she produced a successful harvest, including a variety of winter vegetables, like eggplant.
“The vegetable seeds we received from the organization were great. I was trained very well on agriculture. I learned how to prepare compost from home components,” she said.
Today, in the midst of civil war, Fatima is growing nutritious food for her children and sharing the bounty with neighbors.
Since 2012, USAID has been a global leader in food assistance for Syrians, delivering more than $2.7 billion in food to vulnerable populations, both in Syria and in neighboring countries hosting Syrian refugees.
*Name changed to protect identity.