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Resilience in rural Syria: The sound of songbirds

© IFAD/Mouhab Alawar

Conflict has paralyzed much of Syria’s rural economy over the past decade. People throughout the countryside often repeat what has become a common quote: “No sound is louder than the sound of gunshots.” But at least one woman in rural Syria is listening to a different tune.

For Erfat Ganim, the sound of songbirds is the essence of a happy life. With good planning and a small loan from the IFAD-supported ILDP project, Erfat was able to turn her passion for songbirds into her dream job.

Many people in Syria have been left jobless, and living conditions throughout the country have been punctuated by a series of escalating economic crises. So when Erfat heard about the ILDP, she immediately saw an opportunity.

“I decided to apply for a loan of 125,000 Syrian pounds (about US$250) to buy some chickens,” she says. “I fed them with great sympathy and they were generous in giving me eggs every morning. I collected the eggs and sold them to my neighbours and other local people. Eggs are an important part of our breakfast, so I had a good market here in the village.”

Year after year, Erfat increased the number of chickens she owned, sold more eggs and earned more money to support her family of six. Then one day she heard about the big demand for songbirds in the city – and that people in nearby villages were making big profits breeding them. “I took the courageous decision to replace my lovely chickens with songbirds,” she says with a smile.

Erfat sold off her chickens for a good price during the high season and added that money to her savings. The ILDP helped her choose a good species of songbird. They were expensive, so she could only afford to buy a few at first. She emptied a room in her small house to make a cheerful place for the newcomers. But after just a few months, she was able to trade them for higher prices – and her new business started to grow.

“Every business starts small,” she says. “I am so happy that I succeeded as a rural woman and I am proud to have many birds now. I am able to drink my daily coffee while enjoying their singing. And I make a big profit to help my family meet all their needs.”

In a country where prices are spiralling out of control, Erfat has found an innovative way not only to improve her living conditions, but to muffle the sound of bullets with the sweet music of songbirds.

Learn more about IFAD's work in Syria.