Despite six years of crisis in Syria, agriculture remains a key part of the economy. The sector still accounts for an estimated 26 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and represents a critical safety net for the 6.7 million Syrians – including those internally displaced – who still remain in rural areas.
However, agriculture and the livelihoods that depend on it have suffered massive loss. Today, food production is at a record low and around half the population remaining in Syria are unable to meet their daily food needs. Against this background, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has conducted the first comprehensive nationwide assessment on the cost of the war to the agriculture sector. The assessment interviewed more than 3 500 households and conducted focus groups in
over 380 communities to establish the impact and get a clearer understanding of the type of support required to kick-start the recovery.
The findings revealed that USD 16 billion has been lost in terms of production, along with damaged and destroyed assets and infrastructure within the agriculture sector. The assessment also estimates that, depending on the scenario, between USD 11 to 17 billion would be required to kick-start the recovery of the agriculture sector.
Even though the crisis is not over, the conditions for investing in the recovery of the sector are present in many areas of the country. Such investment will not only reduce the need for humanitarian assistance but also stem migration and encourage the return of migrants. If productive farming areas are neglected, more people will be forced to leave already depopulated rural areas making eventual recovery harder, longer and more costly to achieve.
The international community must start addressing new ways of rebuilding livelihoods during a crisis. Despite the potential of agriculture to address mounting food availability and access constraints, very little has been invested to support recovery of
the sector. Failure to provide adequate support will continue to exacerbate food insecurity and irreversibly compromise agriculture-based livelihoods.
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