Deir Ezzor: Autonomous Administration neglects eastern countryside farmers

A dry irrigation ditch in the Hawamah neighborhood in Hajin town in the eastern Deir Ezzor governorate - November 14, 2023 (Enab Baladi/Obadah al-Sheikh)

A dry irrigation ditch in the Hawamah neighborhood in Hajin town in the eastern Deir Ezzor governorate - November 14, 2023 (Enab Baladi/Obadah al-Sheikh)

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Deir Ezzor – Obadah al-Sheikh

Farmers of the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor governorate are facing challenges that affect the production of their various agricultural crops.

The severe water shortage and the inability of the de-facto ruler, the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), to provide farmers with irrigation water, have affected the productivity of farmers who seek more support and subsidy.

In the town of Hajin, irrigation water does not reach agricultural lands, and the administration is unable to provide support for the pumps responsible for irrigating agricultural lands.

Farmer Ali al-Munif told Enab Baladi that one of the biggest challenges facing the region’s farmers is the mismanagement of the heads of agricultural associations affiliated with the AANES’ Agriculture Authority.

Al-Munif witnessed farmers leaving the area due to the lack of water, and thus the possibility of a high loss for the farmer who depends on his crop as his main source of income, he told Enab Baladi.

Farmer Jaber al-Turki believes that the delay in support for the sector in Deir Ezzor is largely linked to the failure of agricultural associations, noting that most farmers depend on the support of these associations, and with the lack of support in recent years, their interests began to be harmed.

Al-Turki added that he and other farmers suffer from real concerns regarding the decline in the activity of these associations, not to mention the losses they incur in seed and fertilizer expenses.

Agricultural associations are mainly responsible for providing irrigation water for farmers in exchange for a symbolic fee, but these costs may be high for a farmer who owns large agricultural fields.

These associations also seek to provide fertilizers and fuel at acceptable and subsidized prices for farmers, an activity that has stopped during the current year, according to farmers interviewed by Enab Baladi.

Wells water is ineffective solution

Al-Turki considered that irrigation with well water is not a solution for him, pointing out that it is expensive, and its cost has increased recently with the rise in the price of fuel, which is necessary to operate electric generators to extract water.

The price of diesel has reached 3,500 Syrian pounds per liter on the black market in the region, while the prices of spare parts and generator maintenance costs linked to the dollar exchange rate are high, and the spread of soil salinization in the region has harmed well water.

​​The US dollar is trading at 14,000 SYP according to the S-P Today website, which covers the trading rate of the Syrian pound to the dollar.

An official of the AANES’ Civil Council in Deir Ezzor, who spoke on condition of anonymity since he is not authorized to make a statement to the media, said that the residents of the eastern region are facing problems due to the failure to distribute fuel to farmers to date, which threatens the effectiveness of land cultivation in the current season.

He added to Enab Baladi that in previous years, fuel was distributed in mid-November, but distribution operations had not begun in the region until today.

During the same period of time, the AANES’ Agriculture Committee was working to distribute agricultural licenses (a symbolic amount provided to support the farmer based on the area of his land), special licenses (fuel distributed to individual farmers based on the water shortage that his land suffers from), and support allocations distributed by agricultural associations, but none of them were provided this year.

The local official pointed out that the distribution of heating fuel last August was a positive thing for farmers, but in the town of Hajin, for example, these allocations were not distributed.

He expressed his fears that the Autonomous Administration’s failure to rely on a plan to support farmers during the current season may prevent them from cultivating their lands, especially the facilities related to securing irrigation water.

Fuel shortage is a key problem

During previous years, agricultural stations provided support to farmers, but the support was not as required, according to the official in the Deir Ezzor Civil Council.

The agricultural associations provided between four and five irrigation cycles, depending on the situation and the farmer’s need for irrigation, while some lands needed eight irrigations.

The local official pointed out that the subsidized fuel coming from the Autonomous Administration may be of poor quality, especially diesel fuel, which is a major source for operating agricultural equipment.

On the other hand, the official considered that agricultural oil is expensive for farmers and is not available in the required amount, which raises its price and increases the farmers’ bearing of the costs.

He explained that the irrigation process may be very expensive for the farmer, noting that the cost of irrigation in some agricultural associations reaches 40,000 pounds per dunum, and in some cases, it may reach 70,000 or 80,000 pounds, which is an exorbitant amount that requires a large expenditure for a farmer who owns ten dunums, and therefore requires 500,000 pounds for each irrigation.

The official in the Civil Council believes that the main challenge that the people of Deir Ezzor are currently facing is the fuel problem in the eastern region in general, where residents suffer from the absence of AANES’ fuel stations, unlike other regions such as Raqqa and al-Hasakah where these stations are available and sell fuel at a reasonable price.

The consumer transports fuel from primitive oil “refineries,” known as burners, to their homes via small transport vehicles, which causes a new problem represented by customs, which confiscates fuel or even cars and imposes violations and financial fines on the grounds that it is considered an illegal transport operation, and links it to fuel smuggling operations.

Regarding support for organizations, the official in the Deir Ezzor Civil Council said that the Autonomous Administration directed support for organizations mainly towards the agricultural associations affiliated with it.

Among these associations was the al-Jaabi Association, which supports large agricultural sectors in Deir Ezzor, as it provided vertical engines to extract groundwater, but these engines were constantly breaking down as a result of poor quality fuel, which prompted those in charge of the association to use recycled burnt oils, which also caused complete damage to the engines.

Since September, all engines have stopped working due to the unavailability of fuel by the agricultural, irrigation, and service agencies, which has resulted in an irrigation water crisis for farmers.

 

 

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