Riyad, a Syrian refugee who came to Jordan in 2013 with his family. He settled in Jerash, north of Jordan. Riyad was relying on the assistance he receives from different organisations. It was not enough, and he could not handle the idea of staying home and do nothing. That is when his journey started to find a job. 

Photo: Hassan Hijazi/ NRC
Read caption "I needed the job, and this job was perfect for me. I love farming. I used to work in farming back in Syria. We all come from a farming background, and this job reminds me of life back home," says Riyad. Photo: Hassan Hijazi/ NRC

Jordan: Wages for workers, "lungs" for the land

Hassan Hijazi|Published 17. Mar 2019
The trees that once dominated northern Jordan are gradually disappearing and at risk of vanishing. A new agriculture project is reinvigorating the area, providing much-needed work for displaced Syrians and green "lungs" for the region.

"My wish was to find a job. Now I have a job and want to excel at it," says Riyad, a Syrian refugee who came to Jordan with his family in 2013. He settled in Jerash, in north-west Jordan. Riyad was relying on the assistance he received from different organisations. That was not enough. He couldn’t bear staying home and doing nothing. So, he started his quest to find a job.

"I wasn’t allowed to work because I didn’t have a work permit. I had to work informally to get extra income for my family. It was scary. I was afraid that the authorities would catch me and send me to Azraq camp."

Back in Syria, Riyad worked at the water utility. He was responsible for distributing water to the agricultural areas in Daraa, in southern Syria. In October of 2018, Riyad heard about a project that was hiring Jordanians and Syrians to plant trees near King Talal Dam, which is not far from where he lives.

"I needed the job, and this job was perfect for me. I love farming. I used to work in farming back in Syria. We all come from a farming background, and this job reminds me of life back home," says Riyad.

Livelihood, King Talal Dam, Um Qais

Photo: Hassan Hijazi/ NRC
Read caption The King Talal Dam agriculture project is run by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) with the support of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). The aim of the project is to protect the water reservoirs in Jordan through labour intensive activities. Photo: Hassan Hijazi/NRC


Syrians and Jordanians working side by side

Samir, a Jordanian who used to work with an oil company in East Jordan, heard about the project through his friends and neighbours and decided to apply. He explains: "Working in the oil field required me to work in the desert, it was not an easy job. Now I work in this beautiful area. We need to plant trees in this area to restore the once great forest. Right now, there are few green areas in Jordan. This place will be the lungs for the north." Samir is happy to be part of a team of both Syrians and Jordanians, knowing that Syrians need jobs as much as Jordanians.

The King Talal Dam agriculture project is run by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) with the support of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). The aim of the project is to protect the water reservoirs in Jordan through labour intensive activities

This job was perfect for me. I love farming. I used to work in farming back in Syria, and this job reminds me of life back home.
Riyad

Preventing landslides and floods

Building water drainage is another project implemented by the programme in Wasteyyeh, Irbid in northern Jordan, where heavy rains and damaged infrastructure cause frequent landslides.

According to Motaz, a civil engineer in the town of Wasteyeh, landslides and floods are the biggest threats faced by the residents of Wasteyeh. When NRC approached them, their priority was to build water drainage along the most essential roads.

"We are happy to have this collaboration. It was a challenge to find the money to pay the workers. We have all the materials, cement, tools and bricks, but we couldn’t afford to pay wages. NRC and GIZ helped us to recruit and pay workers. However, what was most important was helping local, unemployed Syrians and Jordanians find work. It has helped the families in this town to have a good income, while also involving them in fixing the town."

About the project
  • The project aims to employ at least 2,700 workers: 50% Jordanians and 50% Syrians, with at least 20% women. All workers have social security payments made on their behalf.
  • 90% of the working positions will be for 40 working days, the remaining 10% will be for 80 working days.
  • The aim is to plant more than 120,000 trees in the area around King Talal Dam to prevent soil erosion into the dam. We’re also cleaning 60 kilometres of King Abdullah Canal, supporting the forestry department’s nurseries work to plant seedlings, and the rehabilitation of the ancient water system in Um Qays.