Drought in Syria’s Jazira turns arable land into pasture

DERIK, Syria (North Press) – Out of 13 hectares of land cultivated with wheat, Radwan Othman, a farmer in the village of Tabka in the countryside of Derik in the far north-east of Syria, sold seven and a half hectares to livestock breeders for 350,000 Syrian pounds due to the scarcity of rain and resulting damage to crops.

The farmer, who has incurred a debt of about one and a half million Syrian pounds to cultivate his agricultural land, intends to sell the remaining crops as well.

This year, all regions of northeast Syria witnessed a decrease in rainfall compared to previous years, as its quantity in the Derik was estimated at 300 mm, while last year it reached 500 mm, according to agricultural engineers.

Engineers and farmers estimate that wheat production in Derik area which ranks first in terms of cultivated areas, will drop 80%, or 350,000 hectares, this year.

But Salah Hamzah, co-chair of the city’s Agriculture and Livestock Corporation, expected production to drop by more than 80% in the Derik countryside and to 40% in the areas around the Tigris River.

What does the agricultural season collapse mean?

The collapse of the agricultural season in an area where agriculture is one of the most important sources and pillars of the economy means that the damage will affect other sectors, such as livestock and their need for fodder, and securing the farmers’ need for seeds for the next season may have the Autonomous Administration facing serious challenges.

Radwan Othman calls on the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) to secure seeds for the next season, especially since he and thousands of farmers like him will leave the season empty-handed.

The situation of Ahmed Sa’id, a farmer from Pestasus village in Derik countryside, also converted his fields into pastures.

Sa’id planted his seven hectares of land with coriander, which cost him the price of seed, fertilizer, and plowing.

Livestock keepers try to buy drought-stricken fields to turn them into grazing areas for their herds, rather than pay for fodder in light of the high prices.

The price of one kilogram of barley reached 1,200 Syrian pounds (SYP), while one kilogram of bran is sold for one 1000 SYP.

Muhammad Qasim, owns about 300 sheep in the village of Pestasus in Derik countryside, said that he could no longer raise them after the crops that he used to sell and convert the remnants to hay.

Breeders fear a decrease in the number of their livestock amid their low prices and the stagnation in local markets, as they are forced to sell a number of them to secure the price of fodder and buy damaged fields for grazing.

Delayed feed distribution

On January 6, the Executive Council of AANES, in coordination with the Economic Authority and the Agricultural Community Development Company, decided to reduce the price of fodder bran from 430 to 300 SYP.

The decision stipulated that a census of livestock in the region would be carried out, provided that the bran from the mills would be distributed to the breeders through a committee composed of the Farmers’ Union, agricultural committees and committees, and representatives from the municipal councils.

In a previous statement to North Press, the co-chair of the Derik Agriculture and Livestock Corporation said that they do not have barley in the warehouses and no amount of fodder has been distributed to livestock farmers so far.

At the time, he indicated that during the next few days they would start distributing bran to livestock breeders, at the rate of 20 kilograms per head for sheep and goats and 50 kilograms for cows, buffaloes, horses, and camels.

However, Qasim says that they registered their names more than once to obtain fodder, but all in vain, “We have not obtained it yet.”

Reporting by Solnar Muhammad