Helping Raqqa’s Farmers Reinvest in their Land

Speeches Shim

Tuesday, December 7, 2021
Farmers working their fields in Raqqa al-Samra.

The Raqqa Al-Samra region in northeast Syria is well-known as an important agricultural area. With fertile soil and access to the Balikh and Euphrates rivers, generations of families farmed the land, feeding communities and driving local commerce.

For years, Fatima* and her husband invested time and earnings into their small farm, one of hundreds in the region.

“I raised nine children on this land,” Fatima said.

With reliable irrigation and low-cost access to seed, tools, pesticides, and fertilizer, the farm supported Fatima’s family across two productive seasons each year.

“I’d help grow tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and cucumbers in the summer,” she recalled. “In the winter—parsley, radish, onions, arugula, and cabbage.”

The family’s rhythm of life and farming was disrupted when the violence of Syria’s civil war closed in on Raqqa. Fatima and her husband fled with their children—leaving their home and land to seek safety.

It was several years before Fatima could return to the farm and when she did, everything was different. Her husband had died, leaving her to manage the family and household on her own. The land that once supported them was damaged, as were the tools and irrigation channels they relied on.

“After returning we found our land destroyed,” Fatima said.

Women farmers are supporting the economic recovery of  their communities through the revitalization of farms.
Women farmers are supporting the economic recovery of their communities through the revitalization of farms.

Fatima is one of thousands of people working to restore their lives and agriculture-focused livelihoods in Raqqa governorate. The challenge of rehabilitating dormant, war-damaged fields is compounded by the rising cost of seeds, tools, fertilizer, and pesticides. The price of these critical inputs threatens to hold back communities working to recover. Women like Fatima face additional challenges as they adjust to managing farms and earning a living after the death of a spouse.

Partnering with a Raqqa-based organization, USAID is supporting women rebuilding their farms in the region. After assessments identified key needs and barriers farmers faced, efforts are helping 150 women bring life back to their land. Tools, including drip irrigation networks, water tanks, and plows, were supplied to farmers in time for the winter planting season. USAID’s local partner also held small-group training sessions on how to use the provided tools and on useful farming practices—the importance of crop diversity and the advantages of drip irrigation compared to traditional flooding methods.

“These were things we needed from the market that I couldn’t afford—even the smallest things we couldn’t afford,” said Fatima, who is among the 150 women working with USAID and partners. “This has been a serious help.”

The seeds have been planted—and Fatima and the other farmers are anticipating a profitable harvest. These women will now play an important part cultivating a new start for their families and communities in Syria.

*Names have been changed

Last updated: December 07, 2021

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