The Russian Federation donates $3million to boost food security and nutrition in Syria

New project aims to restore agricultural livelihoods and strengthen resilience of conflict-affected households in Aleppo

19 December 2018, Rome - The Russian Federation has donated $3 million to help FAO provide conflict-affected farmers and herders in Syria with critical livelihood and nutrition support. This is the first FAO emergency project funded by Russia.

The donation will enable FAO to support 60,000 vulnerable households (or 360 000 farmers and herders) in the area of Aleppo, who were severely impacted by the crisis, to restore their production capacity and improve their food security and nutrition.

The funding agreement was signed today at FAO headquarters in Rome by Daniel Gustafson, FAO Deputy Director-General for Programmes, and Victor Vasiliev, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation.

"Large numbers of farmers have abandoned their lands in Syria because of insecurity, which has taken a devastating toll on their agricultural production and destroyed infrastructure and services. The costly and reduced availability of agricultural inputs greatly constrains local farmers," said Gustafson. "Thus, our priority is to boost the local economy and contribute to reducing local poverty and improving nutrition of those most in need".

"The project should provide the initial conditions for the socio-economic development of the country," said Vasiliev. "We expect that the project will bring concrete and tangible results for the benefits of the most vulnerable populations in terms of restoring agriculture destroyed by the war".

"We count on a more active role of other donors and international organizations to assist the people of Syria on their road to peace," he added.

The two-year project will primarily focus on reviving the local economy, reducing poverty and improving nutrition for targeted groups. This will be achieved by assisting the most vulnerable households in boosting their vegetable crop, fruit and forest production and restoring irrigation infrastructure. It also entails providing access to veterinary services to prevent the outbreak and spread of contagious animal diseases and to improve livestock health, production and productivity.

Enhancing livestock production is one of the key elements of the project since the livestock sector has suffered substantially since 2011 with reductions in terms of herd and flock numbers of over 30 percent for cattle and over 40 percent for sheep and goats, while poultry - the main and most affordable source of protein of animal origin - has shrunk by 60 percent.

FAO has designed this project in Aleppo, where 1.2 million hectares of arable land are available for productive use. Aleppo has been badly damaged by the conflict, particularly in the period 2015-2016. In 2017, the security situation improved, allowing for recovery and resilience-building interventions to be implemented to help returnees resume their production activities and restore their livelihoods. 

FAO's work in Syria

According to a recent UN assessment, 6.5 million Syrians are currently suffering from acute food insecurity while another 4 million people are at risk of food insecurity. The protracted crisis in Syria has decimated the agricultural system which has previously played a vital role in the Syrian national economy, contributing about 20-25 percent of the country's GDP. Production levels are at an all-time low, impacting not only on the availability of food but also income of almost half of Syria's workforce who were once dependant on agriculture for employment.

FAO and its partners have delivered crucial support across the whole of Syria since the beginning of the conflict, protecting and restoring rural livelihoods in areas under the control of both the government and the opposition.

Last year alone, FAO's programmes helped farmers grow enough wheat to feed an additional 1.7 million people for a year. Through vaccination and treatment campaigns, FAO has also helped keep more than 11 million of the country's surviving livestock strong and healthy.

In 2018, FAO has continued to support food insecure families in Syria to increase life-saving agricultural and livestock production.

Photo: ©FAO/Alessandra Benedetti
Daniel Gustafson, FAO Deputy Director-General for Programmes (left), and Victor Vasiliev, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation, are signing the funding agreement at FAO headquarters, in Rome, today.