A farmer employs traditional ploughing methods, foregoing
more modern methods of cultivation.
IFAD Photo by Sahar NimehSyria - Southern Regional Agricultural Development
Project - Phase II
Name of Project
Southern Regional Agricultural Development Project II
Location of Project
4 provinces Daraa, Sweida, Quneitra and Rural Damascus, in Southern
International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)
Cofinanced by the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development (AFESD)
and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
Syria is a middle-income country characterised by high unemployment
and inflation running at about 20-30 percent in 1999. Agriculture constitutes
an important sector in the Syrian economy, employing 25 percent of the
labour force in 1999; at the same time, only 30 percent of Syrias
total area is cultivated. A major concern of the governments agricultural
policy is the presence of rocks derived from volcanic lava flows that
limit cultivation, particularly in the south of the country.
In 1982, the Southern Regional Agricultural Development
Project was designed to increase rainfed agricultural production in two
southern provinces, Daraa and Sweida. In 1992, a second phase followed,
extended to all four southern Provinces of Syria (Daraa, Sweida,
Quneitra and Rural Damascus). All soils in the project are inherently
fertile -- hence little fertilizer is needed -- and rainfall is the major
determinant of agricultural production in the project area. Therefore,
the need to increase rainfed agricultural production by de-rocking these
areas was soon evident.
The aim of the project is to assist small farmers and rural
women, both as families and communities, to develop their farms and adopt
improved and sustainable farming methods to increase their production,
incomes and well being.
Approximately 17,600 farm families living in 150 small villages
should benefit from the project. Three criteria were used for prioritizing
the areas for de-rocking: villages where the ownership of the land is
mostly by poorest farmers in the four provinces; a high density of rocks
that would justify the operations; and a rainfall zone where intensive
agriculture would be feasible.
The first component was land development, with the de-rocking
of 32,000ha. An agricultural programme that would enhance agricultural
development was included, with the aim of establishing demand-driven agricultural
extension activities. In addition, training programmes that support rural
women in acquiring new skills and talent to generate income have been
promoted. Finally, a small-scale livestock programme has been introduced,
with the aim to reinforce existing livestock activities.
De-rocking has been implemented in more than 34,000ha
of land, thus allowing the cultivation of apple and olive trees,
and crops such as wheat and barley.
In May 1999, 16, 463 farmers have had their land cleared
under the project, which has enabled them to increase both their income
and food consumption and has reduced migration from rural to urban
Land development has been undertaken successfully and
will provide benefits to participating farmers on a permanent basis.
The increase in fruit tree plantings has the potential of large benefits
in the future. (Approximately 4,200ha were dedicated to tree crops
and the remainder to field crops).
The project was successful in providing development
opportunities for women. The training programmes for literacy and
skills development have reached 17,000 beneficiaries. The women-in-development
programme successfully supported skills improvement, overall empowerment,
and the establishment of enterprises that generated income.
Livestock has proven to be an important and widespread
method of generating income among the majority of borrowers. The loans
provided were very profitable for the local farmers conducting such
activities as dairy development, calf fattening, poultry and milking
The identification of land areas for development should
be done not only following technical considerations of area suitability,
but also taking into account to the extent possible, the targeting
of the poorest household and/or individual.
Participation of beneficiaries should be improved through
a more comprehensive identification of their development needs and
priorities, providing training and credit packages that are tailored
to their needs.
It is necessary to facilitate access by the rural poor
to small livestock activities such as fattening of lambs, raising
of small ruminants, milk production, poultry etc. It has been shown
that these activities improve household food security and generate
Programmes designed for upgrading local, low-producing
breeds of livestock should always seek to involve research and extension
at all available levels (local, regional or international).
IN THE WORDS OF OUR CLIENTS
The interviews were conducted in February 2000 by the BBC
World Service Radio.
In the words of Nasser Abuzeid, a farmer, the results
have been remarkable. ''My income has increased by 40 to 50%.
After reclaiming the land, I planted new trees. Before, I used to
cultivate on small plots, but now Im investing in all my lands.
In this way, the land has tripled and production has doubled.''
Radwan Al Sawal, from the Kuneitra province, and a father
of ten, was living in Damascus and working in a plastic factory. ''I
left my land here for twenty years. It was rocky and barren, but when
I heard about the de-rocking process, I applied to have my land reclaimed.
I came back to cultivation and now the land is very good. I can breed
livestock and grow crops, so I have several sources of income; even
the weather is better than in the city. More than a hundred farmers
have come back from working in Damascus to this village. I want my
children to settle on the land in the future.''
Abderahman Abderahman narrates: ''I never moved
from here, but I used to travel daily to Damascus, working for a construction
company. Five years ago, I reclaimed my land. I used to earn 1 000
Syrian pounds per month. Now I earn 10,000. I am happy because I am
working my own land. Im breeding cows and Im among my
own people and relatives. As for the rocks, I use them as walls between
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