In a country that has been suffering from a crisis that has been going on for ten years, there is obviously difficult living conditions inside Syria. Especially in the production of wheat and the provision of bread, which is the main food for people, and contributes to enhancing food security. To fill this gap; WATAN held a series of focused discussions with wheat farmers in the targeted areas in 15 villages in the Mahbil district and the Jericho region (An area of Syria, administratively belongs to Idlib province). Through the focus groups WATAN identified obstacles faced by wheat farmers; the gaps that must be filled along the chain of wheat production; in addition to identifying the strengths and weaknesses of this vital sector, and ways to strengthen it as one of the most important components of food security in the liberated areas.
Accordingly, WATAN, in cooperation with The Syria Cross-border Humanitarian Fund (SCHF) and The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), designed an intervention project aimed at: promoting this sector and supporting farmers by adopting and implementing a series of activities and interventions based on value-added support. Namely:
- Enhancing the marketing of wheat products by purchasing production at an encouraging price from farmers.
- Sifting a portion of the purchased wheat, sterilizing it and preparing it as seed for the next season, to be distributed to the beneficiary farmers.
- Supplying the remaining part to WATAN Mill, obtaining the flour needed to operate the oven, then starting to produce fresh bread, and distributing it free of charge to the beneficiary families.
- Distribution of fodder (wheat bran and straw) to livestock breeders in the region.
- Supporting wheat farmers with production requirements, including fertilizers and protective materials, along with harvest costs.
- Increasing job opportunities through the cash-for-work methodology, through the formation of workshops specialized in firefighting and pest control.
- Establishing farmers’ schools specialized in wheat production.
It is noteworthy that since the inception of the project until today, 420 tonnes of wheat where produced for the production of bread, and 280 tonnes of wheat destined for sowing have been purchased from 300 farmers. The names of 2,042 beneficiaries of fodder support from livestock breeders – distributed to them at the beginning of last June – were also registered, and 1,400 farmers were supported with the harvest voucher.
As for direct intervention, WATAN, from the beginning of implementation until the present time, has done the following:
- Distribution of wheat seed to 300 wheat farmers.
- Distributing fertilizers and wheat pest control materials to 1,400 farmers through the voucher system.
- Conducting 30 training sessions in field schools to support field farmers.
- Distribution of free bread in the camps of Maarrat Misrin and Sarmin from WATAN Bakery daily and directly to more than 2,300 families per day, where the distribution took place for four consecutive months.
- Supporting 1,400 farmers actively harvesting land.
- Establishing 14 teams to fight fires during harvest. Each team consisting of ten workers, equipped with fighting tools, in addition to a water tank.
The project is expected to contribute to:
- Enhancing aspects of the added value of wheat cultivation, and expanding it in the future, thus enhancing aspects of food security for which bread is essential.
- It is expected to maintain and increase production levels for farms by supporting it with reliable sterilized seeds and production requirements, thus reducing production costs and increasing profitability, which is reflected positively on livelihoods.
- Developing the livestock sector, while increasing its economic efficiency through supporting the distribution of fodder.
4. Adopting the Farmer Field Schools approach, which will reflect positively on increasing the knowledge of farmers and enhancing their aspects of expertise.