Supporting vulnerable fruit producers in the Syrian Republic

Jassem Kafra, from Syria’s Lattakia governorate, is one of 4,000 growers who were affected when forest fires destroyed almost 1,400 ha of the governorate’s farmland in late 2016. More than 251,000 fruit trees in the districts of Heffeh, Lattakia Markaz, Jableh and Kerdaha were lost at that time.

Jassem and his wife lost more than 100 young olive trees, which provided the family’s only source of income. Each year the trees would produce more than 140 litres of high-quality olive oil. The Syrian Republic used to be a leading olive-oil producing country in the region before the crisis, with more than 79 million olive trees producing about 1.1 million tons of olives (250,000 tons for consumption, and 850,000 tons for oil production, producing some 200,000 tons of olive oil).

Due to the crisis, there has been a significant reduction in olive production. The security situation, forest fires, cutting of trees, damage to irrigation systems, drought, changing climate and the inability to access farms to care for the trees were all factors contributing to the reduction. By 2016, the Syrian production had dropped by around 40 percent to 670,000 tons of olives; yield also reduced, producing only 164 000 tons of oil.

To support the most vulnerable fire-affected farmers, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, with funding from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, provided 2,700 families with more than 51,200 olive tree saplings. The farmers had lost at least 50 percent of their production. As it takes five years for saplings to become mature enough to produce olives, FAO also distributed winter vegetable seeds, tools and irrigation systems to enable the farmers to cultivate vegetables to eat and sell in local markets.

According to reliefweb.int, the project also provided training for farmers in good agricultural practices, pest and disease management, compost management, intercropping and forest fire management. To support affected families until their vegetable crops were ready for harvest, FAO partnered with the World Food Programme, which provided food baskets to meet immediate needs.

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