Findings from the FAO/WFP Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission conducted in May/June 2013 indicate that poultry production in Syria is estimated to have dropped by more than 50 percent compared with 2011. According to the Directorate of Animal Production of the Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform (MAAR) and the Union of Syrian Agriculture Chambers, less than 35 percent of the country’s poultry units were still operating by May 2013. Furthermore, the quality of the Syrian diet and micro-nutrient intake was assessed as likely reduced. Many households were observed to be cutting back substantially on the consumption of fruits, meat, dairy products and eggs. Support to backyard poultry production is therefore a key priority for FAO in Syria to enhance household resilience. Thanks to funding from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the Central Emergency Response Fund of the United Nations (CERF), FAO in Syria is assisting 3 000 vulnerable households in Rural Damascus and 1 600 in Homs to restart or sustain their backyard poultry production. This assistance is enabling families to produce eggs for home consumption and enhance their protein intake, while surplus production can be sold in the local market or bartered.
Three years after the start of the crisis in Syria, people are finding it more and more difficult to meet their basic needs. Many have lost their livelihoods and are struggling to find alternative sources of income in a country where jobs have become scarce. With progressively increasing inflation and a steep depreciation of the Syrian pound, the remaining savings of Syrians are rapidly depleting. Many have been already forced to adopt negative coping mechanisms which often have the most serious impact on their food security and nutrition
In this context, female-headed households are even more severely affected by the crisis. Those living in the rural areas of the country are amongst the most vulnerable as they often have little or no income, very limited savings and high recurring expenses. As a result, their resources can be easily exhausted, reducing coping capacities and increasing their dependence on external support.
It is therefore crucial to find alternative solutions to sustain the food and nutrition security of the most vulnerable families, in particular those headed by women.
Backyard poultry is an excellent way to enhance the availability of and access to micronutrients and protein-rich foods. Furthermore, it is an ideal activity for women as livestock- and poultry-keeping are done traditionally by female members of the household.
Thanks to funding from the DFID and CERF, FAO is currently assisting 3 000 vulnerable households in Rural Damascus to restart or sustain their backyard poultry production. In Homs 1 600 households have been already reached. Each family receives 15 laying hens and 50 kg of poultry feed – sufficient for two months, after which hens can be fed with food scraps from the family. This assistance is enabling families to produce eggs for home consumption and enhance their protein intake, while surplus production can be sold in the local market or bartered.
“The prices are very high, we are two families in living in the same small house, my mother is sick, and we have no jobs. Before receiving the chickens we could not afford to buy eggs from the market. Now there are enough eggs for us all”, said Fatima, one of the beneficiaries. Before the crisis Fatima had a house where she used to live with her children. Following the start of the conflict she was forced to move to her parents’ house. She does not have a job and can hardly meet the needs of her family and her sick mother.
Similar sentiments were echoed by Souad, who said “we have nothing to do now. We have no jobs and the food prices are very high. Thanks to the laying hens that we received we have enough eggs for all the family. Eggs are expensive in the market, now we don’t have to buy any”. Before the crisis Souad and her family used to work as agriculture labourers and they had some animals. Now after the start of the conflict they have lost everything.
Following the successful completion of the distributions in Homs towards the end of 2013 and the delivery of assistance to 1 600 vulnerable families, in April 2014, FAO started distributing in Rural Damascus. 901 families have been reached so far in Qatana District in Rural Damascus with 13 515 hens.
In the next two months, FAO will continue distributing poultry and poultry feed to beneficiaries in nine districts of Rural Damascus governorate (Qatana, Darayya, Az- Zabdani, Rural Damascus, Duma, Yabroud, An Nabk, Al Qutayfah and At Tal).