ROME, Italy, Apr 4 (NNN-KUNA) - Fighting in Syria has caused huge damage and losses to agricultural production, but the sector can and should be kick-started now, dramatically reducing the need for humanitarian aid and migration, according to a new Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) report, published ahead of an international conference on Syria's future, in Brussels.
In addition to the severe human suffering, the conflict has caused more than US$16 billion of lost crop and livestock production, and destroyed farming assets, according to the report - "Counting the Cost: Agriculture in Syria after six years of crisis."
The report presents the first comprehensive nationwide assessment of the damage of the war, on the agriculture sector.
The assessment included surveys of more than 3,500 households across Syria, interviews with more than 380 community groups and analysis of primary and secondary agricultural data.
"The survey shows that, in the midst of conflict, agriculture provides a lifeline for the millions of Syrians, including internally-displaced people, still living in rural areas," said Jose Graziano da Silva, FAO Director General.
"Ramping up investment in the recovery of the agriculture sector, could dramatically reduce the need for humanitarian aid. It could also have a significant impact on stemming the flow of migrants," he added.
Around 95 percent of communities surveyed, felt that, if they were assisted with even basic agricultural support, such as seeds, fertilisers and fuel, to power irrigation pumps, it would reduce the number of people abandoning rural areas, to find opportunities elsewhere, and also encourage the return of migrants and internally displaced people.
The report went on to say that, of the US$16-billion total bill, the cost of damage to assets - such as tractors, machinery, commercial farms, veterinary clinics, animal sheds, greenhouses, irrigation systems and processing facilities - is estimated at over US$ three billion, though this number is likely to rise significantly, when the full extent of damages in the main conflict areas can be better assessed.
About US$6.3 billion of the total is made up of damage and loss in crop production. In the livestock sector, damage and loss was calculated at around US$5.5 billion, and in the fisheries sector the estimate is almost US$ 80 million.
The initial cost of rebuilding the agriculture sector over a three-year period is estimated at between US$10.7 and US$17.1 billion in total, depending on whether there is no change in the conflict, a partial return to peace or a full return to peace.
The report outlines a response plan under each of these possible scenarios, including addressing underlying issues, such as sustainable water use for irrigation.
Since 2011, FAO has supported the livelihoods and food and nutrition security of more than 2.4 million Syrians in rural and peri-urban areas of Aleppo, Al-Hassakeh, Dara'a, Deir-ez-Zor, Hama, Homs, Idleb, Rural Damascus, Sweida and Quinetra.
Source: NAM News Network