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FAO calls for immediate support to farmers affected by Syrian crisis
The Syria conflict has a severe impact the lives and livelihoods of neighboring farmers communities in rural neighbouring Lebanon. Resources are scarce and competition is high. FAO livestock expert, Dr Chedly Kayouli, warns that without further support from the international community farmers will ultimately have to abandon their land and sell their livestock.
“Agriculture is the backbone of the rural economy in rural Lebanon. Nevertheless the increase in animal feed prices and agricultural inputs, coupled with the decline in cross-border trade, is forcing smallholder farmers out of business. The irony is that the Lebanese agriculture sector has such a great potential – especially with the presence of the large refugee population”, says Kayouli.
According to the recently issued FAO rapid assessment of the impact of the Syrian crisis on food security and agricultural livelihoods in neighbouring countries, the deterioration of bilateral trade between Syria and Lebanon and the reduced trade through Syria to lucrative markets in Turkey and the Gulf, has made it extremely difficult for Lebanese farmers to sustain a living.
Many Syrian refugees brought their livestock with them to Lebanon, as this is the only agricultural asset that they can transport. FAO estimates that as of March 2013 some 12,000 mountain and shami goats had crossed into North Lebanon from Syria. The large presence of Syrian animals in Lebanon has added the threat of overgrazing of rangelands and soaring animal feed prices.
The price of cattle has dropped by up to 60 percent. Furthermore, Syrian and Lebanese farmers from the border region lost access to the subsidized agricultural inputs that were available from Syria before the war, including animal feeds, seeds, fertilizers, vaccination and animal health care. Local resilience to shocks such as the sudden increase in feed prices and competition over local markets is minimal and smallholders are struggling to protect their livelihoods and primary source of food and nutrition.
FAO, hence, calls for urgent support to restore food security and local livelihoods in the most affected areas. Rehabilitation of the Lebanese dairy sector constitutes a great opportunity in this regard. Dairy products are essential components of the Lebanese people’s daily diet and traditional dairy products are major contributors to protein and micro-nutrients intake. Still, Lebanon imports up to sixty percent of its dairy. With the right support to the dairy sector, FAO estimates that Lebanon could become more or less dairy self-reliant.
In the Regional Response Plan (RRP5) for the Syria crisis launched in Geneva on May 7th, FAO appeals for support to expand its existing dairy production activities in Lebanon through a programme that supports the sector all the way through the value chain from the production of animal feed to marketing of milk products. The project will establish farmers’ cooperatives and milk collection centers, allowing smallholder farmers the benefits of large-scale farming. Under the RRP5, FAO also requests support to implement a nationwide vaccination campaign to contain the threat of Transboundary Animal Diseases (TADs) and to establish food safety and plant disease control mechanisms along the Syrian-Lebanese border.
The situation for small-scale farmers in rural Lebanon is dire and urgent action is needed to protect their livelihoods. Agriculture based food security and livelihood interventions offer cost-effective, durable and dignifying solutions to the enormous challenges faced by the rural population. FAO calls for immediate support to seize the potential of the sector and allow Syrian and Lebanese farmers to join hands and beat the crisis.