“Livelihoods have been severely eroded, and the situation will not be solved by only food aid,” said Wolfgang Jamann, Secretary General of CARE International. Local economies in the south were once dominated by agriculture and small businesses related to the sector, with industries supported through subsidies by the Syrian government. No longer receiving government assistance, and with a lack of access to fuel, water, and veterinary services, the agricultural sector is in danger of collapse. In a region where an estimated 70 percent of the pre-crisis workforce were engaged in agro-related activities, now only 10 percent of households report their primary source of income stemming from agriculture.
The report also found that average monthly income has dropped to US$123 per household, even lower, US$90, for female-headed households, many of whom are relying on remittances. Families have depleted their savings, and many are borrowing money or buying food on credit.
With a lack of access to fuel, at least half of productive trees have been cut and used as firewood. The cost of water has increased 10 times, and the price of fertilizer, 20 times. Still, the study shows that opportunities exist for more strategic investment, using cash and voucher assistance and support to the agricultural sector.
The report found that 87 percent of interviewed households are receiving food assistance. “While food assistance helps in the short-term, it’s simply not sustainable in the long-term. We need to see a shift towards increased self-sufficiency and stability, which is possible in many areas where there is less active conflict,” Jamann said. “Families are relying on local markets and the private sector. If we support more local initiatives, we can better stimulate the local economy – which is desperately needed. People need food security, not just food aid.”
Last week, as donor governments gathered in London to discuss assistance in the Syria crisis, aid agencies continued to advocate for more attention to protection, education, and livelihoods. “We must emphasize the imperative to better assist people during protracted crises,” explained Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council. “Syrians, especially those still caught in the midst of war, need to see tangible results – in peace talks, and in the delivery of quality assistance. A focus on improving their livelihoods, leading to increased self-reliance, even in the current situation must not be neglected.”
Notes on the research:
The research data was collected during August to October 2015, through 1,212 interviews, 25 focus group discussions, and 63 key informant interviews, in areas of both Dar’a and Quneitra governorates, and was designed to equally cover all agroecological zones within the area. The objectives were to (1) understand current livelihood strategies to ensure access to income for men and women in rural and urban areas, and how the conflict is affecting household economies; (2) analyze the impact of the conflict on agricultural livelihoods, small businesses and employment opportunities; and (3) understand the dynamics of the critical market systems for key livelihood sectors.