A Syrian's devotion to her grandchildren, her homeland and her farm

Despite ten years of crisis, Fiya is determined to stay in her homeland Syria

Living in a conflict zone, Fiya has struggled to access the agricultural materials she needs to make a living and provide food for her family. An FAO project is helping her, and many others, continue providing for themselves in spite of the conflict. ©FAO/Daraa/Mohammed Nammour


An almost 10-year-long crisis in Syria has affected much of the country’s population. Many have been killed or  displaced, fleeing to avoid the fighting. Others, like 66-year-old Fiya Hassan and her family, lost their homes and livelihoods. Fiya’s house was burned down during armed clashes, but she couldn’t bear to leave her homeland: the memories of happier times, with her children growing up in her backyard were just too strong. Instead, she and her family rebuilt the destroyed parts of their house and decided to stay, hoping for a better future.

Fiya is the head of her household and a grandmother of eight, living in the Ibtaa sub-district in southwest Syria. She had always relied on farming to generate a proper income, as well as provide food for her family. But since the conflict started in 2011, obtaining the necessary agricultural inputs has become increasingly tough due to the ongoing violence, the economic crisis and the fluctuating currency rate. These problems have prevented thousands of farmers like Fiya from being able to sustain their livelihoods.

With the financial contribution of Kuwait, FAO has provided 3 000 rural families with seasonal vegetable seedlings and tools to begin farming again. Left/Top: ©FAO/Daraa/Mohammed Nammour Right/Bottom: ©Alf Ribeiro/shutterstock.com

A solution in small-scale farming

According to the Humanitarian Needs Overview 2019, more than 9.3 million people in Syria are food insecure. FAO is supporting rural families living in Syria who, due to the conflict, have found it impossible to access the needed seeds, tools and fertilisers to continue farming and feeding their families.  This difficulty— in addition to other problems like unexploded ordnance in some fields, high transport costs and limited marketing opportunities— means that farmers have not been able to provide for themselves, and many rely on food distribution to meet their daily needs. Responding to this, FAO, with the financial contribution of Kuwait, has provided 3 000 rural families in the Daraa and As-Suwaida governorates with seasonal vegetable seedlings, fertilisers and tools to begin farming again.

As part of the project, Fiya received tomatoes, eggplant and sweet pepper seedlings from FAO. She managed to harvest 1 500 kilograms of tomatoes and eggplants in one season, sufficient to meet her family’s food requirements for five months, with some to spare to give to extended family members too.

 “I have spent my entire life farming,” she says. “I loved to cultivate all sorts of vegetables, like potatoes, eggplant, pepper, spinach and parsley. I cannot describe my feelings once I saw my new crops growing.”

“Jamal, my son who used to care for our land, passed away a few years ago. From that day nobody worked on the land, not even myself,” says Fiya, with tears in her eyes. Jamal was her youngest son, who died at just 25 years of age. It was the most painful experience she had ever been through.

When she took up farming again, she wanted to honour his memory. “Seeing my land green again fills me with hope. When my land is green, it reminds me of my son who always loved farming as much as I do.”

As her eggplant and tomato plants thrive, Fiya’s land is now green again, for her a sign of hope. ©FAO/Daraa/Mohammed Nammour

Partnerships work toward a better future

FAO and Kuwait’s partnership aims to support vulnerable farmers in the Syrian Arab Republic by boosting their food security and nutrition, as well empowering women in rural areas to enhance their livelihoods and secure food for their families and communities.

Loss of workforce, loss of livestock, loss of tools and loss of land: all of these effects of conflict threaten people’s ability to provide for themselves and fend off malnutrition. Together with partners like the World Food Programme, FAO monitors the impacts of crises on food security to ensure a coordinated response. FAO supports the livelihoods of farmers and increases their resilience, helping communities living in conflict-stricken areas to ensure their dignity and build a better future. In 2019, FAO reached 186 000 people across Syria, and aims to have reached 150 000 by the end of 2020, despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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2. Zero hunger, 8. Decent work and economic growth, 16. Peace justice and strong institutions