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Time to harvest the honey: Syrian returnees find new livelihoods in beekeeping

Time to harvest the honey: Syrian returnees find new livelihoods in beekeeping

15/05/2020

The improvement of the security situation in Daraa Governorate in southwest Syria has allowed thousands of displaced families to return to their homes. However, it has not been an easy return for the families who lost their income, resources or their breadwinners. Many returnees are women and people with disabilities, groups vulnerable to poverty or food insecurity. Five years ago, more than 25 000 people left their quiet village called Khirbet Ghazaleh, some 30 km away from Daraa city, to escape from the escalating conflict. Fatima Abdul Raheem and her three young children have now returned to their village and live in one room made of concrete. Her husband, the breadwinner of the family, was killed during the conflict. “We went through difficult times during the crisis. I lost my husband in an explosion. I became the only breadwinner for my three children: the oldest is nine years old and the youngest is only five. They cannot do anything to help support us,” said Fatima. Prior to the crisis, the families from this town in Syria had been involved in vegetable production, small livestock (sheep and goats) as well as beekeeping.

With Fatima’s previous, though limited, experience in beekeeping and with the support of some of the expert beekeepers in the village, she was ready to try out this occupation once more. She received a beekeeping kit from FAO, all the inputs she needed to produce honey and begin making an income by selling the products. She teamed up with other expert and beginner beekeepers to generate honey efficiently, both in terms of cost and quantity.

With oversight from FAO’s implementing partner, the Arab Beekeeping Union, the community has created the Honey Producers’ Committee. This committee guarantees the honey’s quality by testing samples in their laboratories; it also helps form ties with surrounding markets. “I felt glad and hopeful when I received my three beehives from FAO,” said Fatima. “I can start to rebuild my life again with some technical support from the producers’ committee,” she continued, voicing gratitude for the encouragement to get her back on her feet. “Beekeeping is producing good results – I am expecting at least 10 kg of honey from each beehive this season. Although I will still need some support to become financially independent, I promised myself to work hard to expand my beekeeping and try to scale up my income,” she added. FAO is reaching 500 beekeepers in Hama, Homs, As-Sweida, Qunaitra and Daraa governorates with beehives, protective clothes, queen bees, beekeeping equipment and honey extractors to support the honey harvesting process.

“We are working with our partners to help people get back on their feet after the crisis,” describes Mike Robson, FAO’s Representative in the Syrian Arab Republic. He adds, “We try to bring people together to exchange production knowledge and techniques – this provides an additional benefit at the community level, helping to encourage trust and social cohesion.” FAO and the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) are aiming to improve rural families’ production capacity by providing sustainable access to inputs, in addition to creating rural employment opportunities for vulnerable farmers, women, youth and people with disabilities. Ensuring that families regain their livelihoods despite conflict situations is key to ensuring food security and self-reliance. 

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