The Syria civil war has had a very strong, negative impact on the Syrian economy, including those engaged in agricultural production, and agricultural value chains in general.
Specifically, as a result of the war the following have been markedly disrupted, curtailed or cut off completely: Government agricultural support, agricultural input goods and services; international border movement, internal security, and credit, among others. This has had a very profound impact on agricultural productivity, trade flows and income generation in general.
To better understand the new normal of the Syrian agricultural economy and how future programming can best be optimized for positive, long-lasting impact, Mercy Corps recently conducted an agricultural survey of key players, 248 survey respondents total, in six different primary agricultural value chains in the governorate of Al-Hasakeh, located in North East Syria.
As a result of the assessment, Mercy Corps discovered, among things, which products are viewed as profitable, which are not, and why. It also learned how market systems have adjusted to the new realities on the ground, and which interventions will likely be most impactful in growing local incomes, and with an eye toward resilience, gender dynamics and nutrition. Some of the findings include:
- The decrease in government assistance post-crisis has led to a strong decrease in the production of cotton, and a large increase in the production of coriander.
- A major constraint in profitably growing and producing agricultural products in general are a lack of high quality and affordable inputs, including fuel to run irrigation pumps, fertilizers, equipment, machinery and parts; livestock medicines and vaccines, feed and fodder, electricity, credit and labor.
- Lack of security has had a profound impact on agricultural trade flows, including substantial constraints to market access.
- Access to information generally, whether regarding markets, prices, and modern agricultural and business practices, show strong promise to increased productivity in general, and increased income over time.
Based on this assessment, and combined with Mercy Corps’ long-standing programming experience in Syria and throughout the region, some of the many recommendations include the following:
- Explore opportunities to develop voucher programs to spur the use of quality agricultural inputs at affordable prices.
- Assist private input providers in expanding their goods services to the region, potentially through credit programs and/or loan guarantees to encourage investment, plus technical assistance in marketing their products and services.
- Facilitate the provision of agricultural technical training, as well as the provision of basic business management training to producers and others throughout the value chains.
- Facilitate the use and adaptation of technology to expand the knowledge base and entrepreneurial opportunities of local value chain actors, including the use of smart phones (with access to the internet, where available), and desktop internet availability.