Unfortunately for this 2018 report, following decades of declining levels of food insecurity (i.e. improving food security), recent conflicts and climate disasters have sent global hunger statistics back on the rise.
The focus of this year’s Global Report on Food Crises by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, is on the impacts of conflict on agriculture and food systems.
In 2017, there were 124 million people in acute food insecurity, across 51 countries. The highest levels of food insecurity were seen in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and North-East Nigeria.
Of these 124 million people, 74 million people (60%) were living in conflict affected countries (18 countries).
In many of these countries devastated by conflict, large proportions of the population are dependent on agriculture for income and livelihoods. Conflict has devastating effects on food systems, both the livelihoods and incomes of producers, and also the food supply of consumers.
Farmers can lose access to inputs (seeds, fertilisers, etc) and also to markets to sell their produce. This forces much of the agricultural workforce to migrate.
However, agriculture can also play a key role in restoring and stabilising economies and livelihoods following conflict.
In relation to the current conflict in Syria, FAO Deputy Director-General for Programmes Daniel Gustafson, has stated:
“Despite significant setbacks, agriculture continues to sustain almost half of the food supply in Syria, serving as a lifeline for millions vulnerable Syrians. This is a powerful testimony of the resilience of the people of Syria and of the agriculture sector”.
In fact, agriculture has been described as possibly “the engine of Syria’s stabilisation”.
Prior to the current conflict, half the Syrian population maintained a livelihood in agriculture, producing a quarter of the country’s GDP. Yet, the Syrian agricultural sector has been devastated by the conflict, which has been concentrated in the countries prime agricultural areas. According to estimates by the UNFAO, the agricultural sector has lost $16 billion since the conflict began. This has led to a third of the Syrian population who remain in Syria (or 6.5 million people) facing acute food insecurity, as food supply diminishes and food prices reach record highs.
There is some good news coming from the country – the wheat sector has shown incredible resilience, producing 2 million metric tons in 2017! These levels match pre-conflict levels when Syria was regarded as the regions bread basket.
This just goes to show the tremendous power of agriculture, well above putting food on the table (which is pretty incredible itself). Agriculture has a huge role in regrowing and stabilising countries, economies and livelihoods following devastating conflict.
Interested to know more about Syrian agriculture? Stay tuned, as the AgriEducate team are preparing to bring you an in-depth look at Syrian agriculture before the current conflict, during the conflict, and what hope there may be for the sector post conflict.