Saturday, February 20, 2016

Supporting farmers in Syria now is essential for a sustainable future - Hurreyet Daily News

... As things stand, Syria has lost half of its herds, and while the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has managed to treat some nine million animals, the risk that unvaccinated surviving livestock will trigger the spread of diseases beyond the borders is real. Wheat production, estimated at 2.4 million tons in the latest marketing season, is 40 percent lower than the pre-crisis average even though weather and cropping conditions have been favorable.

Farmers and pastoralist simply do not have adequate access to the tools of their trade. Inputs like seeds and fertilizer are hard to procure, equipment and infrastructure have been damaged, labor is scarcer, animal feed is lacking and local veterinary services have collapsed or are under enormous strain.

In 2015, FAO has strengthened its presence in Syria and last year assisted 1.5 million people across 13 out of 14 governorates through support to cereal and vegetable production, seed distribution and preservation and protection of remaining livestock.

And yet emergency agricultural interventions in Syria were more than 70 percent underfunded in 2015. Much more can be done, and much more must be done.

With $200, a Syrian farmer (keep in mind that rural women now make up 63 percent of the agricultural workforce) can produce two tons of wheat, providing valuable income and a year’s worth of food for a family of six. On top of that, she or he becomes a protagonist of the effort to overcome the crisis.

Agriculture is also a key channel creating economic opportunities and jobs, a high priority of the renewed U.N. appeal for Syria. U.N.-led efforts have done much to mitigate the short-term suffering of a large share of target aid recipients. We must now further expand their scope to bolstering the sustainability of Syria’s food producers.

FAO’s appeal represents a tiny fraction of the funds needed for the broader humanitarian crisis in Syria. Donors must think like farmers: One must sow in order to reap.

*José Graziano da Silva is director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

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