FAO Director-General: food security and the migration crisis

Graziano da Silva stresses links between conflict, imperilled rural livelihoods and migration

24 September 2015, Rome - The millions of people who are being forced to flee from war, poverty and other hardships are a tragic reminder of the urgent need for peaceful solutions based on social justice and improved economic opportunities for all. Key to achieving this is the protection of and investment in rural livelihoods, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said today.

"Rural development and food security are central to the global response to the refugee crisis. War causes hunger and hunger too, kills and forces people from their homes," he said.

"Whether living in camps or finding themselves on the move, people are in a particularly vulnerable situation. The world needs to give a comprehensive response that offers hope and concrete solutions to refugees, and this response must consider their present and future food security, and the rehabilitation of their rural livelihoods."

"Supporting agricultural based livelihoods can contribute to both helping people stay on their land when they feel safe to do so and to create the conditions for the return of refugees, migrants and displaced people," added Graziano da Silva.

"Most of the displaced hope to return to their lands as soon as the conflict is over, but the impacts of conflict on food security often last long after the violence has subsided," he said.

Agriculture continues to be the backbone of livelihoods for the majority of people in conflict and post-conflict situations.

In this context, FAO focuses its work on providing relief to protect agriculture-based livelihoods during the conflict while creating the conditions for rehabilitation and long-term resilience of agriculture as a crucial strategy for peacebuilding, poverty alleviation and overall development in countries facing protracted crisis situation.

In Syria, for example, the conflict is having a devastating impact on agriculture, with food markets and supply chains dysfunctional, much of the irrigation and other infrastructure destroyed and farmers and livestock keepers left with no other option than to abandon their fields and animals. The ones who remain cannot access markets or afford seeds, fertilizers and other inputs. Meanwhile the influx of Syrian refugees is also impacting agriculture in neighbouring host countries

FAO is working with partners to strengthen food security and build the resilience of households and communities in Syria and in neighbouring countries. Such efforts aim to save livelihoods while helping communities lay the foundations for their own long-term recovery.

At a practical level FAO is prioritizing help for the most vulnerable families to improve their access to food, nutrition and income.

This involves seed assistance to enable Syrian farmers to harvest sufficient cereals to feed their families; cash-for-work programmes to create income opportunities while repairing critical on-farm infrastructure; veterinary support and vaccination campaigns in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria to preserve livestock health and vital sources of nutrition; and distribution of backyard production kits that give displaced and host families the means to produce nutrient-rich foods, such as eggs, milk and vegetables.

Photo: ©FAO/Khalid Al Omar
In Syria farmers and livestock keepers are often left with no other option than to abandon their fields and animals.