“Humans, animals and land: we all need water to live”

“Our biggest problem is water”

Yassin is a 55-year-old farmer from rural Hasakah, in north-east Syria. Agriculture and livestock are his main means of income. The wheat and barley crops that his land produces cover his household needs, and barley is the main source of food for his livestock.

But when drought came to Syria, his financial security was shaken.

“Our biggest problem is water. Humans, animals and land – we all depend on water to live,” says Yassin, summarising the crisis he and other villagers are dealing with.

The area where Yassin lives normally receives rain. But their lands were affected by drought this year and failed to produce harvests, leaving the villagers fully reliant on their livestock.

If one of our chicks dies, we declare it as a disaster, if a baby sheep gets sick you will hear its owner moaning.

“Our animals are the only way we can live with dignity. We share the water we buy from mobile water tanks with them. If one of our chicks dies, we declare it as a disaster, if a baby sheep gets sick you will hear its owner moaning,” says Yassin.
The villagers are now searching for other water and food sources for themselves and their animals.
“This year we are all thinking of ways to provide food for our animals. We cannot reduce the cost of buying feed, and we don’t have enough income to cover the costs,” explains Yassin.

Many villagers have ended up leaving to seek other means of income in other parts of the country.

The population in Yassin’s village has decreased dramatically, from 4,500 to around 500 to 600 individuals.

Agriculture under threat

Yassin’s village is not alone. Farmers across Syria are facing similar conditions. The country has experienced low rainfall for the past two years, averaging 50–70 per cent of normal levels across all Syrian provinces. The drought has been the most severe and widespread to have hit the country in years.

North-east Syria is the country’s food basket. It exports strategic crops and provides the majority of Syria’s wheat and barley. When agriculture is affected there, the impact is felt across the country.

A parched wheat field in rural Hasakah. Photo: Tareq Mnadili/GHFT

More Syrians are becoming “food insecure” – meaning they don’t have reliable access to healthy, nutritious food. Many livelihoods are being lost, as agriculture in Syria is a major productive sector, and more Syrians are being pushed into adopting negative coping mechanisms.

In the longer term, this will drive people to abandon agriculture altogether and head towards the cities.

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