Pomegranates Bring Profit and Promise to Deir ez-Zour

Speeches Shim

Tuesday, December 7, 2021
Operations at a recently rehabilitated pomegranate juice and molasses workshop in Deir ez-Zour.

Ahmed Silwan* knows a lot about pomegranates. His home on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River in Syria is surrounded by an orchard and his life and livelihood have long centered on the fruit. Ahmed can explain the intricacies of growing pomegranates, the best soil, the many ways it can be used, and the fruit’s impact on generations of families in the Deir-ez Zour region.

“Working with pomegranates is my love and passion,” he said.

Ahmed started his pomegranate workshop in Deir ez-Zour in the 1980s and translated his passion into profit by running a shop to produce pomegranate juice and molasses. Within his first two years, the business was flourishing, allowing Ahmed to hire staff and expand the products he made and sold.

“We’d produce four to five tons of pomegranate juice and molasses. In some years, it was eight to ten tons,” Ahmed said. “I was the first person [in Deir ez-Zour] to produce pomegranate molasses without any additives.”

From year to year, Ahmed hired 15–20 people to work in his workshop. Selling his products in local markets, shipping them across Syria, and exporting to neighboring countries, he was able to create a comfortable living standard for his family.

His business grew until 2011, when peaceful protests were met with violence, sparking the Syrian conflict. Ahmed lost access to export markets and buyers in other parts of Syria—cutting off a significant portion of his income.

A pomegranate juicer at a USAID-supported workshop in Deir ez-Zour.
A pomegranate juicer at a USAID-supported workshop in Deir ez-Zour.

As the country fell into civil war, Ahmed’s town came under control of opposition fighters and then ISIS. Families and businesses could no longer rely on having basic services, such as electricity or water. Ahmed tried to keep his business going, but in 2019, he was forced to flee with his family to escape the violence.

When he was able to return, the once thriving business was gone.

“When I returned [the shop] was completely destroyed,” Ahmed recalled. “All of it, the building and all the equipment—destroyed—there was nothing left.”

Ahmed and other business owners returning to Deir ez-Zour faced a challenging situation. As families moved back to the region to rebuild their lives, they had to restore the economic opportunities that supported them as well. But farms had been devastated, leaving farmers, and those like Ahmed who rely on farm products for their own businesses, to start over with few resources.

In coordination with local partners, the USAID Essential Services, Good Governance, and Economic Recovery project talked with producers and business owners working across the horticultural value chain—from farm to processor to market—to see where outside support could make the biggest difference in reviving the agricultural economy. In addition to previously supported agricultural nurseries, assessments identified pomegranate juice and molasses shops as important products, so USAID worked with 16 shops to get businesses running again. The project provided entrepreneurs with equipment to restart pomegranate juice and molasses production, including fuel tanks, water heaters, stoves, and juicing machines.

It is just what Ahmed needed.

“Honestly, this support has been massive,” he explained. “This is the first project of this size in this region.”

Ahmed has already increased production at his shop and now employs 20 people—jobs that are helping other families rebuild. While he is realistic about the challenges ahead, he has a sense of hope and expects business to grow.

USAID is working with local officials and business owners like Ahmed to help Syrians recover after a decade of conflict. In the past year, efforts have also rebuilt agricultural nursery businesses and improved farmers’ access to irrigation in Deir ez-Zour. By restoring access to essential services, such as water and power, and helping revive the agriculture and businesses that can drive growth and local markets, efforts are establishing a foundation on which communities can rebuild and foster resilience and stability.

* Name has been changed.

Last updated: December 07, 2021

Share This Page