Drought in eastern and northeastern Syria has driven some 300,000 families to urban settlements such as Aleppo, Damascus and Deir ez Zour in search of work in one of the largest internal displacements in the Middle East in recent years.
The country’s agriculture sector, which until recently employed 40 percent of Syria’s workforce and accounted for 25 percent of gross domestic product, has been hit badly, but farmers themselves are worst affected, say aid officials.
In some villages, up to 50 percent of the population has left for nearby cities.
“Farmers who depend on only one crop are in trouble – they have nothing else to help them and they have to move,” said Abdulla Bin Yehia, a representative of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Damascus.
Those with livestock have seen the cost of feed rise 75 percent, according to FAO, resulting in the deaths of up to 80 percent of livestock on small and medium-sized farms.
More than one million people, already bordering on the poverty line because of low incomes, have been affected by the drought. Outdated and wasteful irrigation methods used by farmers are also contributing to the problem, experts said. IRIN