UN whitewashes Assad's attacks on Syria's agriculture

UN whitewashes Assad's attacks on Syria's agriculture
While Assad continues his brutal offensive on Syria's farming provinces, hopes that the vulnerable agricultural industry may be spared continue to diminish.
3 min read
04 Apr, 2017
"Daraa is the cradle of the revolution" - Daraa protest in 2011 [Getty]
​A new UN report has urged Syria to reboot its agriculture sector, despite that the country being at war for six years.

Since the start of the war, Syria has lost more than $16 billion-worth of crop and livestock production, along with livestock apparatus.

Food and Agriculture Organisation Director-General José Graziano da Silva said "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".

The report also suggested that, a reinvigorated Syrian agricultural industry would help curb the nation's food crisis, on the basis that 80 percent of the internally displaced people in Syria rely on agriculture as a means for survival.

While the need for a more substantial agricultural sector is indisputable, analysts say the UN's report is overly simplistic by failing to identify the specific actors that caused the decline of the Syrian agricultural industry with the outbreak of violence.

The Syrian uprising has its roots in the nation's agricultural areas. One of the flashpoint moments of the early days was when protester Hasan Ali Akleh from al-Hasakah poured petrol over his head and set himself on fire on January 26, 2011.

Al-Hasakah was known for a substantial role in Syria's agricultural industry. Some 34 percent of the wheat produced in Syria was produced here. Akleh's immolation marked the sheer frustration of the way in which those living in rural Syria had financially suffered under Assad's rule - despite the agricultural sector being vital to the Syrian economy.

Throughout the war, the Syrian regime and its allies have focused directly on barrel bombing and conducting chemical weapons attacks in rural areas.

According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, at least 12,958 barrel bombs were dropped in 2016 – with rural areas in Damascus, Aleppo, Hama, Idlib, Daraa and Homs provinces experiencing the majority of the attacks.

On the morning of April 4, 2017, a gas attack in Idlib claimed at least 72 lives, including those of children.

Before the war, Idlib was known for its production of olives, cotton, wheat and fruits – with a particular emphasis on cherries, figs and grapes.
From the archives: The aftermath of the
Ghouta chemical attack [Graphic footage]

The first chemical attack that happened in the Syria war was in Ghouta in August 2013. The attack, which highlighted just how severe the Syrian war was, shook the international community.

Ghouta was considered one of the most important areas for the Syrian agricultural economy and specialised in growing fruit and vegetable trees, along with a thriving courgette industry.
Read also: Iran should pressure Syria to stop chemical attacks
The report was correct in saying the agricultural infrastructure of Syria needs to be revived in order to beat food shortages. However, it fell short by failing to point out the source of the crisis, making the implementation of a substantial solution to the Syrian agricultural crisis much harder.

Considering Assad and his allies continue to conduct brutal attacks on Syria's agricultural regions, the hopes of the UN and others that the vulnerable agricultural industry may be spared will continue to diminish.