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Resilient Livelihoods for Agriculture and Food and Nutrition Security in Areas Affected by the Syria Crisis

Resilient Livelihoods for Agriculture and Food and Nutrition Security in Areas Affected by the Syria Crisis
May 2014

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is closely monitoring the impact of the Syria crisis on food security, nutrition, agriculture and livelihoods in Syria and neighbouring Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. Assessments carried out across the affected subregion indicate that threats to food security and livelihoods are severe and growing steadily.

In addition to rendering over half of Syrians poor and nearly a third food insecure, the crisis is eroding the very foundations of food and livelihood security in what was once a middle-income country, with a relatively high employment rate (92 percent) and growing agriculture sector. Syria’s food chain is disintegrating – from production to markets – and entire livelihood systems are collapsing. The conflict also is severely affecting economic, social and human development in neighbouring countries. With most of Syria’s 2.6 million refugees living outside of camps, host communities face intense competition for resources such as land, water and income opportunities, while costs for housing, food and other commodities soar.

The humanitarian appeals for Syria and neighbouring countries are the largest in history: USD 4.4 billion in 2013 and USD 6.5 billion in 2014. As the crisis shows no sign of abating, a resilience-based approach is proving ever more crucial to meet immediate needs while helping affected populations – and the systems which support them – better absorb, adapt and recover from current and future shocks emanating from the crisis.

Such an approach, combining emergency and development efforts, is indispensable in the context of food and livelihood security. Behind each family pushed into poverty and hunger, systems are collapsing which need to be protected, restored and strengthened. A holistic approach is needed not only to deliver crisisaffected populations from aid dependency, but also to prevent hunger and poverty from increasing and becoming endemic.

FAO’s “Resilient Livelihoods for Agriculture and Food and Nutrition Security in Areas Affected by the Syria Crisis” is a five-year Subregional Strategy and Action Plan, budgeted at USD 280 million – just over a tenth of the value of agricultural losses suffered in Syria by 2012.

The Strategy is a dynamic document developed over the course of agricultural programming missions to the subregion in late 2013 and early 2014, which build on rapid agricultural livelihood and food security impact assessments and initial response plans prepared during the first quarter of 2013.

With the aim to protect, restore and strengthen livelihoods and the agro-ecosystems on which livelihoods depend, the Strategy tailors short-, medium- and longer-term actions to address specific needs of the main groups affected by the crisis, including Syrian internally displaced persons (IDPs) and affected populations, refugees, returnees, host communities and national and local authorities.

Activities focus on seven priority areas, which can be broadly categorized as: (i) control of transboundary animal diseases (TADs); (ii) control of plant pests and diseases; (iii) food security and natural resource information systems, disaster risk management and policy development; (iv) rural and peri-urban income generation and employment; (v) agricultural production; (vi) natural resource management; and (vii) food safety and nutrition.

The Strategy aligns with national government priorities and existing regional frameworks for addressing the Syria crisis and calls for close partnership with affected communities, national institutions, United Nations (UN) agencies, non-state actors and private-sector organizations.

Agriculture cannot be an afterthought. Affected populations in the subregion need effective responses to the challenges threatening their food security and livelihoods. A resilience-based approach delivers this, while better preserving the integrity of lives, livelihoods, natural resources and critical development gains achieved over the past decades.