La résilience
A Syrian herder invents and builds a fodder pressing device and stands ready to help his neighbors. ©FAO/Andrea Thiodour

A Syrian herder invents and builds a fodder pressing device and stands ready to help his neighbors


“If any of my neighbors want a device like this, I'd be happy to make it for them. I'm also offering the use of my fodder press to anyone who needs it free of charge,” said Abdullah Bilal Tobal, demonstrating a remarkable sense of community. Abdullah, a smallholder herder from Tal Hasel in As-Sfira, Aleppo Governorate, had an idea to build a press to preserve fodder after he attended one of FAO’s farmer field schools (FFS) under the Smallholder Support Programme.

Though he was already familiar with alfalfa – a common fodder crop grown in Syria – Abdullah, along with other herders, learned how to compress dried alfalfa into bales to preserve it so it could be fed to cows during the winter. Furthermore, there is a lack of good quality fodder on the market. Considering the advantages of preserving fodder, Abdullah was motivated to invent and build a manual press that could make preserving alfalfa easier and less time-consuming. Abdullah explained that the bale making techniques he learned at the FFS inspired him to make a wooden compressing machine that could replace the need to press the alfalfa with his own hands.

“We used to feed our animals with a limited amount of green alfalfa in the summer, and we threw away the surplus when summer ended. At the school, we learned how to avoid this loss by harvesting alfalfa every 20 to 30 days, drying it, and then compressing it into bales using a hand-held plastic box to store the fodder in winter season!” The simple wooden prototype that Abdullah designed improves upon the fodder preservation method he learned at the FFS. 

FAO also provided alfalfa to the farmers through the FFSs, which will contribute to sustaining the availability of animal feed through the winter season. The FFSs have influenced the way farmers think, with farmers learning the value of preserving fodder to prevent fodder loss to maintain herd productivity throughout the year, improving their livelihoods.

The key to the success of the FFSs is that farmers can share their challenges and find solutions together. The farmers can also share ideas with one another for on better herding practices, which will boost food production and improve food security in the area. 

FAO, through its Smallholder Support Programme, will continue to reach smallholders across Al-Hasakah, Aleppo, and Deir-ez-Zor Governorates to enhance their skills and knowledge by giving them access to information. FAO will support their learning through practical training (learning by doing). As a result, the farmers will continue to gain skills and learn innovative, positive coping strategies that will help them become more resilient to crises.