Syria’s Food Security: From Self-Sufficiency to Hunger as a Weapon

  • Myriam Ababsa


The chapter succinctly reviews the history of agriculture in Syria from the late 1950s until the present day (end 2016). It is structured in three sections. The first section discusses the government’s historical aim of achieving self-sufficiency in food production starting in the late 1950s, showing that agrarian reform was later developed to serve the interests of the middle and large farmers. The second section briefly addresses the agrarian counter-reforms in 2000s and the impact of the drought in late 2000s. The third section presents how food has become a weapon since the war started in 2011. Looking at some of the besieged cities back in 2015 and 2016, it places the emphasis on survival and coping strategies.


  1. Ababsa, M. (2011). Agrarian Counter-Reform in Syria. In R. Hinnebusch (Ed.), Agriculture and Reform in Syria. Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers and University of St Andrews.Google Scholar
  2. Ababsa, M. (2015). The End of a World: Drought and Agrarian Transformation in Northeast Syria (2007–2010). In R. Hinnebusch & T. Zintl (Eds.), Syria: from Reform to Revolt (Vol. 1, pp. 199–222). Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Ahmed, G. (2016). Syria Wheat Value Chain and Food Security. Duke University, Policy Briefs, Minerva, p. 10.Google Scholar
  4. Aita, S. (2010). Hal hunak ishkâlia zirâ‘iya fî Sûriya? [Is There a Problem with Agriculture in Syria?]. Retrieved from
  5. Al Jablawi, H. (2016, July 26). Syrians Rely on Ingenuity to Defy Hunger and Death. News Deeply, Syria. Retrieved from
  6. Assistance Coordination Unit (ACU). (2015, September 18). The Project “Our Bread from Our Land” Buys 110 Tons of Wheat in the Northern Countryside of Homs. Gaziantep: ACU.Google Scholar
  7. Batatu, H. (1999). Syria’s Peasantry, the Descendants of Its Lesser Rural Notables, and Their Politics. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Brown, O., & Crawford, A. (2009). Rising Temperatures, Rising Tensions: Climate Change and the Risk of Violent Conflict in the Middle East. International Institute for Sustainable Development.Google Scholar
  9. Bush, R. (Ed.). (2002). Counter-Revolution in Egypt’s Countryside: Land and Farmers in the Era of Economic Reform. London and New York: Zed Books.Google Scholar
  10. Carnegie. (2015). Food Insecurity in War Torn Syria from Decades of Self-sufficiency to Food Dependence. Retrieved from
  11. Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS). (2011). Syria Statistical Abstract. Damascus: CBS.Google Scholar
  12. Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS). (2013). Agricultural Statistics, Time Series 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000–2011.Google Scholar
  13. Ciezadlo, A. (2015, December 18). The Most Unconventional Weapon in Syria: Wheat. The Washington Post.Google Scholar
  14. DIS (Danish Immigration Service) & ACCORD (Austrian Center of Country of Origin and Asylum Research and Documentation). (2010). Human Rights Issues Concerning Kurds in Syria.
  15. El Dahan, M. (2016, April 26). Syrian Food Crisis Deepens as War Chokes Farming. Reuters. Retrieved from idUSKCN0XN0G0
  16. El Hindi, A. (2011). Syria’s Agricultural Sector: Situation, Role, Challenges and Prospects. In R. Hinnebusch, A. El Hindi, M. Khaddam, & M. Ababsa (Eds.), Agriculture and Reform in Syria. Fife, Scotland: University of St Andrews Centre for Syrian Studies.Google Scholar
  17. Eng, B., & Martinez, J. C. (2015). How Feeding Syrians Feeds the War. Foreign Policy, 11 February 2016. Retrieved from
  18. Eng, B., & Martinez, J. C. (2016). Starvation, Submission and Survival. The Syrian War Through the Prism of Food. Middle East Research and Information Project. MERIP 273.Google Scholar
  19. ENS (Environment News Service). (2010). Syria Drought Drags on, Rivers Polluted, Aid Funding Dries Up. Retrieved from
  20. FAO. (2016). Syria Food Production at All-time Low. Retrieved from
  21. FAO/WFP. (2016, November 14). Special Report. FAO/WFP Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission to the Syrian Arab Republic.Google Scholar
  22. Government of Syria, Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform. (2010). National Programme for Food Security in the Syrian Arab Republic.Google Scholar
  23. Hamlo, K. (2015, 07/03). Despites Incentives, Syrian Government Is Having Hard Time Purchasing Crops from Farmers. The Arab Weekly, Issue 12, p. 16. Retrieved from
  24. Hudson, J. (2014, April 17). Exclusive: UN Docs Expose Assad’s Starvation Campaign in Syria. Foreign Policy. Retrieved from
  25. Ibrahim, A. (2016). Double Prices for Bread in Latakia Countryside. Retrieved from
  26. IRIN. (2010, September 9). Syria Drought Pushing Millions into Poverty. Retrieved from
  27. Khaddam, M. (2011). Syrian Agriculture Between Reality and Potential. In Raymond A. Hinnebusch (dir.), Agriculture and Reform in Syria (pp. 57–82). Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers and University of St Andrews.Google Scholar
  28. Lançon, F. (2011). Assessment of the Competitiveness of the Syrian Agriculture: An Application to Selected Representative Value Chains. Syrian Arab Republic, Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform, National Agricultural Policy Center (NAPC), International Cooperation Center of Agricultural Research for Development- CIRAD.Google Scholar
  29. Mourad, M. (2016). Government areas in Deir ez-Zor: No Bread and Water. Retrieved from
  30. NAPC. (2010). National Agricultural Policy Centre (NAPC). Retrieved from
  31. OCHA. (2009). Syria Drought Response Plan. Retrieved from
  32. Pecad. (2008). SYRIA: Wheat Production in 2008/09 Declines Owing to Season-Long Drought. Retrieved from
  33. Petran, T. (1972). Syria: Nation of the Modern World. London: Ernest Benn Ltd.Google Scholar
  34. Sarkis Fernández, D. (2011). El contrato es la ley: estado, economía y políticas de la responsabilidad en la agricultura Siria. In I. T. Saborit (Ed.), Antropología de la Responsabilidad (pp. 151–183). A Coruña, Spain: Universidade da Coruña.Google Scholar
  35. UN News Centre. (2014). Security Council Renews Cross-border Aid Delivery to Syria for a Year. Retrieved from
  36. UNGA. (2011). Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter. Mission to the Syrian Arab Republic. United Nations General Assembly.Google Scholar
  37. Wind, E., & Dahi, O. (2014). Syria’s Agricultural Development. Current Realities and Historical Roots. Fribourg University, Unpublished Paper. Retrieved from

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Myriam Ababsa
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut Français du Proche-OrientAmmanJordan

Personalised recommendations