During the first week of 2019, NEF distributed its first tranche of cash support to over 140 farmers across seven functioning Siraj Centers (community hubs) that NEF has established in Syria within the past year. NEF’s local team is working to complete the cash grant distributions for this period of the project within the month. Along with receiving these cash allowances to invest in their farming and processing activities, participants attended a code of conduct training and orientation on the formation of producer groups. This is a major step in NEF’s latest efforts to facilitate the recovery of agricultural markets in Syria.
Through technical training, value chain analysis, input allowances, and access to equipment and supplies, NEF is working to restore and improve the livelihoods, food security, and economic resilience of conflict-affected farmers and food processors. To sustainably impact value chains and market demand, NEF is helping farmers and processors (picklers, packagers, dryers) strengthen their relationships with, and access to, sales channels while improving the quality and value of their products.
The aptly named Advancing Livelihoods Through Support to Agricultural Markets in Syria (AAMS), began in the fall of 2017 and now employs a staff of nearly 70. Ultimately, it will work with over 2100 farmers (between 30 – 40% women) and 540 food processors (all women) in eight conflict-affected localities. Through an approach that uses “producer groups”, it will organize groups of farmers and processors into cohesive brands in order to expand their options and opportunities when approaching production input sources and various sales channels.
As the conflict in Syria enters its eighth year, 13.1 million people are in need of food, aid, and livelihood assistance. Prior to the conflict, agriculture employed approximately 17 percent of the Syrian workforce and accounted for 21 percent of the gross domestic product. While the sector has experienced huge losses due to the ongoing conflict, it remains one of the most significant sectors in the Syrian economy. Moreover, it now makes up a larger share of the economy than before the war.
Believing firmly that now is the time to invest NEF’s resources and experience in the recovery and rebuilding of agricultural operations in conflict-affected areas, NEF’s Chief of Party on the project states, “The communities and local councils we are reaching are excited and very supportive of the work that is taking place and the progress made so far. We look forward to seeing the impact that these efforts will have on not only the individual farmers, processors, and their families, but also on the agricultural sector within these communities.”