Better water management makes everything come alive

Jouriyah picking courgettes from her land in rural Aleppo, Syria. Photo: UNDP Syria/Adeeb Alsayed.

Syria | 2023 | CERF

Syria, rural Aleppo. Jouriyah Al Khalaf,45 years old, is from a small village in rural Aleppo. Jouriyah lost her husband during the COVID-19 pandemic, and she was left the sole breadwinner for her nine children.

“We were getting by on my husband’s salary before he passed away, in addition to whatever income I made from farming neighbouring land and our own plot, to cover family expenses. The fighting in the area affected us, and it became a struggle to survive. We had to leave our home for a few months before returning to the area in 2016. Deciding to come back was a tough call for us, and it ended up costing us a lot,” explains Jouriyah.

She and her family had to borrow money from relatives to transport their belongings back to the village, and when they finally did make it back, they found all their machinery and tools either damaged or stolen.

“Being landowners, we knew we could not just sit down and do nothing. We had to keep investing in our land. For a while, we relied on rain-fed farming because it was cheaper than pumping water, but this was not very sustainable, especially when living in a country that is hit by droughts for long stretches of time”.

Dependence on rainwater and rain-fed farming poses a high risk for families living in rural Aleppo and makes them vulnerable to drought. The cost of agricultural inputs is high, and well water in the area is often unsuitable for irrigation. 

With funding from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Syria worked with government partners to improve farmers’ livelihoods.

The Wheat Support and Water Scarcity Challenge project extended its support to 50 returnee farmers (16 women, eight of whom were widows) residing in various villages of Tal ad-Daman district, providing drip irrigation networks along with water pumps. Not only did the beneficiaries receive help installing the irrigation systems, but they were trained on irrigation networks and composting to maximize the benefit and become self-sufficient.

Jouriyah explained, “With support from the project team, we procured a 100-meter hose, three and a half rolls of the drip irrigation network, with all the needed accessories to set it all up, and a water pump.”.

The work was worth it

Thanks to a cash grant, Jouriyah was able to rent a tractor to cultivate her land for farming. “It was a lot of work, but it was worth it,” she said. “I still remember the first time we connected the pump to the electrical network. I was so excited. I could not sleep that night. I was just waiting for the electricity to start pumping water from the well onto my land. Having the pump connected to the village’s electricity network meant we did not have to extract water nearly as much as we used to. We can rely on the water from wells for irrigation and daily use, which saves us a lot of money. Instead of extracting water three times a week and paying SYP100,000 each time, we only need to do it occasionally, for drinking water.”

The team also shared improved seeds.

 “It has been two months now since I planted the seedlings. I use what I harvest for cooking and sell the surplus to generate income. I was able to buy an electric scale from Aleppo to earn customers’ trust and ensure that they are getting exactly what they paid for. Our lives have completely changed. The land has become our main source of income, and I am determined to keep investing in it to make it even better. I am grateful for the opportunity that this project has given us, and I am excited to see what the future holds.”

Original story: adapted from original articles by UNDP

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