Seed availability of major crops has been a serious challenge for Syrian smallholder farmers in the past 10 years due to the damage to the agricultural system caused the conflict. Prior to the crisis, the General Organization for Seed Multiplication (GOSM) was responsible for the provision of up to 300 000 tonnes of certified wheat seed a year to farmers across the country. Today, GOSM is capable of providing only around 50 000 tonnes of seed. This is enough to meet the planting demands for only 15 percent of the 1.8 million hectares of land planned for wheat cultivation. The remainder will come from farmers’ own saved seed or from seeds from unknown sources in the local market.
FAO, under its Smallholder Support Programme, works toward finding strategic solutions to make quality seed available for smallholder farmers. With the support from the FAO Headquarters Seed Security Team, FAO Syria has conducted a Seed Security Assessment, which was completed in April 2020. To analyze the quality and availability of seed of across the country, a representative sample of crop farmers from seven governorates were interviewed to provide their perspectives.
The assessment findings included:
• Although GOSM is an important source for accredited wheat seed, the farmers obtained half of their seed from other sources to supplement what they received from GOSM.
• Local informal markets are an important source of seed for nearly every major crop (wheat, barley, pulses).
• Twenty percent of farmers are sowing less seed than they normally would because they cannot afford seed or other inputs like water for irrigation or agrochemicals. This reveals that the combination of challenge between general lack of seed and the ability of poorer farmers to access inputs more generally.
• Seed is a significant cost for farmers, the estimation of their total expenditure on seed is between 1/6 (rain-fed) to 1/3 (irrigated) in total, which is spent in local informal markets.
The FAO Seed Security Assessment reveals the opportunities to enhance the local markets and assist Syrian farmers to benefit from their production activities. This can be achieved through improving seed supply, helping small-scale farmers access seed and other inputs, working with informal markets to improve the quality and diversity of seed, and improving the provision of new varieties by strengthening research systems and building better links to farmer demand.