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Providing emergency support for vulnerable farmers against desert locust

21/05/2021

Since the beginning of the crisis in 2011, Syrian farmers have struggled to access the basic needs and tools to sustain their production activities, such as quality inputs, water for irrigation, operational infrastructure and pesticides. Even where food production has been possible, access to the surrounding markets has been a major challenge, making it difficult for farmers to promote their products and generate income.

These factors have driven an increase in the country’s food insecurity levels, reaching almost 60 percent of the population according to the 2021 Global Humanitarian Overview. The adoption of negative coping mechanisms is on the rise, including skipping meals and selling productive assets to buy food. The situation also threatens to encourage the migration of rural populations to cities in search of livelihood opportunities.

This year, climatic conditions including fluctuating temperatures and a lack of rain in March and April are likely to impact the production of the most important strategic crops in the Syrian Arab Republic – wheat and barley – as well as vegetables. Rainfed cultivation is expected to be severely affected, and irrigated cultivation will be affected by the lack of fuel to power irrigation infrastructure.

As of mid-May, additional groups of desert locust threaten to pose an additional challenge to country’s already fragile agricultural situation. Forecasts predict Deir-Ez-Zor and Dara'a as potential locations for desert locust egg hatching, putting farmers at high risk of attack on their crops – their only source of food and livelihood. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates show that up to 50 000 ha of land may need to be reached through control efforts in order to limit the impact of desert locust on agricultural production – particularly wheat, which is vital to Syrians’ food security.

The crisis in the Syrian Arab Republic has also impacted the capacity of the relevant national institutions to respond to crises and shocks. Considerable qualified technical staff have left the country and the lack of training opportunities is limiting the chance for those who have remained to update their skills and/or gain new knowledge on the most recent global trends.

Thanks to a contribution of USD 200 000 from the Government of the Kingdom of Belgium, through the SFERA Activities Agricultural Inputs Response Capacity window, FAO will provide equipment and materials (ultra-low volume vehicle-mounted sprayers, backpack sprayers, hand-held sprayers and pesticides) to respond to the immediate needs. A total of 10 000 ha will be covered through control operations, benefiting 5 000 farming households. In addition, FAO will improve the technical expertise of national authorities, supporting the preparedness capacity of the Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform. The ability of staff to anticipate locust outbreaks and respond quickly and efficiently to infestations will be strengthened, as well as the capacity to properly monitor and document control operations.