Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page

11.7 Evolution of farm structures

An important feature of structural change in Syrian agriculture has been the decreasing average farm size. Nevertheless, agricultural income per capita could keep the pace of general economic growth, remaining at the same levels as in other sectors. Moreover, in the last decade both the share of agriculture in total GDP and in total employment have not changed much, and no substantial rural to urban population transfer took place. This contrasts with the usual decline of agriculture in developing economies, and with previous trends in Syria. The share of agricultural to total employment was decreasing in the 1970’s, but the trend reversed in the 1980s, and only in the second half of the last decade did the downward trend take on again, though at a slow pace and with marked oscillations. The conclusion is that decreasing farm sizes have been compensated for both by a growing productivity of land (driven by the dramatic increase in irrigated land and by increased yields), and by agricultural policies, which dampened the outflow of labour from agriculture.

Since population growth is still rapid, it is easily predictable that pressure on land will aggravate, pushing further downwards the average farm size, unless enough off-farm job opportunities become available to drain excess labour from agriculture. Employment prospects are not easily predictable but the data indicate, if any, an increasing pressure on the labour market and a growth in unemployment. Concern also comes from the fact that in some areas a minimum threshold for farm operation has already been reached, and that a further increase in irrigated land is questionable for environmental reasons. A further growth in income per unit of land is therefore called for to avoid a decrease in per capita farm incomes. It can be fostered by spreading technical progress favouring a further increase in yields, by rationalization of the use of water resources, and by increasing the value especially of those labour-intensive products grown in smaller farms, like fruits and vegetables, as suggested above.

Previous Page Top of Page Next Page