FAO Regional Office for Near East and North Africa

Meet Syria’s Food Heroes who contribute to grow, nourish and sustain food production for people

We do not often express our gratitude for the food we eat to the people who actually produce it, and who make sure that it reaches us. Throughout the years of crisis from 2011, Syria lost its human capital, infrastructure and the resources that farmers relied upon. Despite this, many still chose to remain in the country and continue production. This story highlights three out of thousands of Food Heroes in Syria, who dedicated their time and effort to contribute to achieving Zero Hunger.    




Female Food Heroes are leaders for community development

Empowering women is key for community cohesion and development.  Hend Salem, a 55-year-old woman from Al Hazani Village in rural Hama Governorate, became involved when she taught seven of her neighbours (men and women) how to produce good quality vegetable seedlings, with technical support and inputs from FAO Syria, through one of the organization’s projects.

Hend has benefited from low tunnel seedling production inputs and technical training on best agriculture practices, designed by FAO, to sustain growing vegetable that will meet her family’s food needs. She was not aware of modern cultivation techniques prior this support.

 “I used to plant my backyard randomly, my crop often failed to grow, so I had to buy vegetable from the market, yet, I could not afford to pay for it sometimes,” described Hend.

“My life changed when I became capable of producing my own vegetable seedlings. So I thought of changing other women’s lives too by teaching them how to grow seedlings too. So far, more than seven of my female and male neighbours produced a variety of vegetable relying on the techniques I taught them. I will continue to help my neighbours with any advice I can pick up from reliable resources, as we stand by each other in difficult times like these,” she stated.

More than just a job

Bonding with vulnerable farmers to understand their core needs and find out what improved agriculture practices might help them is vital for FAO staff. Despite movement restrictions and lock downs earlier this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the FAO team has kept contact with farmers to ensure the success of our interventions.

“We are keen to contact farmers to obtain detailed information on a project’s progress or discuss an issue to give proper advice. They have great needs after all, and we must support them,” said Jihad Meqdad – FAO Syria National Agronomist.

Jihad joined FAO Syria in 2017; since then, he has always been committed to be present for vulnerable farmers throughout his field visits.

“Supporting farmers to grow vegetables comes from my passion for agriculture; I love growing vegetables and dealing with plants that can improve people’s health. Moreover, assisting farmers to become self-sufficient food producers is a really worthwhile vocation,” he explained.

Working as an agronomist is more than just a job for Jihad. “Sensing the farmers’ gratefulness after receiving support and follow up as they once again grow vegetables, restoring livelihoods after years of being unable to do so is a real source of motivation and satisfaction for me,”.

Assisting farmers despite COVID-19

 “The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world completely; for us it had a huge impact in terms of both personal and professional practices,” described Khalil Al Jani- FAO Syria’s Resilience Officer in Homs Governorate. Despite the need for social distancing measures, the FAO Syria team managed to carry on its activities to reach vulnerable farmers, to enhance their resilience and improve their food and nutrition security situation.

“Vulnerable farming families appreciate assistance to restore their livelihoods and food production, especially in difficult times like COVID-19; we worked harder than ever to ensure we could deliver inputs and training in a timely manner, no matter what!” Said Khalil.

Celebrating Food Heroes

October 16th marks World Food Day (WFD). More than 150 countries celebrate the occasion by rallying to achieve Zero Hunger around the globe. This year, FAO reflects on the WFD 2020 theme (Grow, Nourish and Sustain) by spotlighting the great efforts made by “Food Heroes”, including farmers, technicians, food chain workers, government or private sector representatives, who are dedicated to helping the most vulnerable to recover from the crisis and to make food systems more resilient.

From FAO Syria’s office, thank you!   


Share this page