In Syria, drought, another scourge in a destroyed country

The most optimistic still want to believe that the agricultural northeast of Syria is facing a lag in the winter season. But, for some humanitarians and experts, the northern zone has entered a serious drought and the country destroyed by ten years of war. is heading for a new catastrophe. With late rains, farmers are worried: only a tiny part of the cultivated land has been planted so far, mainly due to lack of rainfall.

The consequences of a drought would be devastating in a fragmented country where the ravages of cannons followed a serious socio-economic crisis: more than 60% of the population lives in a situation of food insecurity, a proportion which has increased since 2019 And the fate of vulnerable farmers is now in danger.

“If there is little change in rainfall between now and the end of January, we are on the verge of disaster. The situation can still change. But we are already worried ”, warns Mike Robson, representative in Syria of the FAO, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

“Agriculture already very sick”

Drought in Syria, exacerbated by climate change, is cyclical. But if this scenario alarms this year, it is because many lights are red: in 2020-2021, season classified as “Moderate drought” according to the FAO, wheat production has reached less than half of the quantity expected in northeastern Syria, the region most affected by the lack of rains. In this granary, the level of the Euphrates, source of irrigation and drinking water, is at its lowest – residents accuse pro-Turkish groups that control the region of Afrin for Ankara of blocking the passage of water by a pumping station. In northwestern Syria, a water reservoir on which hundreds of farming households depend has been completely dried up, unprecedented in nearly thirty years of existence.

Read also the editorial: After ten years of war, Syria, a lost country

The risk of drought threatens “Agriculture that is already very sick”, notes Rami Zurayk, professor at the faculty of agricultural and food sciences at the American University of Beirut. The agricultural productivity of the country, which once prided itself on its self-sufficiency in wheat, is around 30% of what it was before 2011.

The plight of the farmers began before the war: the periods of drought from 2006 to 2010, added to the liberalization measures undertaken by the power of Bashar Al-Assad, got the better of the small producers, forced to migrate to the cities. The conflict worsened the calamities: destruction of water infrastructure, exile of Syrians from rural regions to neighboring countries …

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In Syria, drought, another scourge in a destroyed country

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