Increased demand for donkeys and horses as traditional farming thrives in Daraa

Plowing land with animals thrives in the town of Amouria in the western countryside of Daraa - May 5, 2024 (Enab Baladi/Halim Muhammad)

Plowing land with animals thrives in the town of Amouria in the western countryside of Daraa - May 5, 2024 (Enab Baladi/Halim Muhammad)

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Daraa – Halim Muhammad

In the northern section of the livestock market in the town of Muzayrib in the western countryside of Daraa, Mousa (40 years old) displays mules, donkeys, and horses for sale, which have recently seen increased demand.

The growing demand for buying donkeys is driven by a return to traditional farming especially in the western countryside of Daraa, following the high plowing costs with agricultural machinery, and their use in transporting herbs, firewood, and drinking water.

Furthermore, the rise in fuel prices has increased the cost of plowing land for agricultural machinery, as well as transportation fees, where the cost of vehicle hire does not fall below 100,000 Syrian pounds.

Mousa told Enab Baladi that the price of a regular horse varies depending on its gender, with females being more in demand as they continuously produce offspring. Several factors determine the price, including the horse or donkey’s corpulence, disease-free status, and their ability to endure the hardships of plowing and cart pulling.

He added that some non-purebred horses can cost more than 15 million Syrian pounds (about 1000 US dollars), while the price of a donkey ranges between one and three million Syrian pounds.

Mousa mentioned that the horse trade achieves “good” financial profits, in addition to his work in trading sheep and goats in the same market.

The livestock market in Muzayrib is a popular market designated for selling livestock, fodder, and birds, and it is active on Saturdays and Tuesdays each week.

Source of income

Mahmoud Suleiman (40 years old), residing in the western countryside of Daraa, relies on plowing farmers’ lands using horses, a profession that forms a source of livelihood for his family of six.

He stated that he goes out to work at dawn each day after prior agreements with farmers to plow their land, focusing his work on plowing the empty spaces between the plants.

Following the rise in costs of plowing potato crops with a tractor, Suleiman’s workload with his horse-driven plow increased during the season, and he now plows the land to facilitate workers picking potatoes behind him.

Additionally, the demand for his horses has increased for planting crops of beans and peas, which are planted in the months of October and November.

Cheaper plowing

The cost of plowing a dunum (1,000 square meters) with a tractor has reached 100,000 Syrian pounds, while its cost with animals does not exceed 50,000 Syrian pounds.

Suleiman added that his capital is the effort he exerts and the feed he provides for the horse, comprising barley, with the cost of a kilo reaching 3,000 Syrian pounds.

Suleiman had a horse that worked in plowing the land, but he died, which prompted him to buy a new horse for $1000.

Youssef Abdul Karim (27 years old), who owns a ten-dunum pomegranate farm, mentioned that he plowed his farm using animals to save on the cost of plowing with a tiller.

Agricultural Engineer Khaled Suleiman commented that using agricultural machinery to plow the land is better than using horses, as it breaks the soil deeper, helps in turning more soil and thus exposing it to aeration, and leads to easier movement of the plant’s roots, which reflects on the growth speed and quality of the crop.

He added that the return to traditional plowing is due to the high costs of plowing with machinery, following the rise in diesel prices and engine repair parts.

The price of diesel has reached 13,000 Syrian pounds per liter, and it controls the cost of plowing, which can reach up to 300,000 Syrian pounds per dunum in the case of plowing on a large tractor with high power and a large plow.

Household uses

On a cart pulled by a black donkey, Ayman al-Saleh (20 years old) now transports drinking water from a well nearly two kilometers away from his home, following the cutoff of drinkable water from its main source in the town of Zayzoun in the western countryside of Daraa.

Al-Saleh resorted to buying a donkey for two million Syrian pounds and customizing a cart, to meet his household needs for transporting water, firewood, herbs for his cows, and more.

Donkeys and regular horses are used to pull carts, and have become widely used to meet the needs of rural residents.

Al-Saleh mentioned that transporting herbs for his three cows via the cart does not cost less than 100,000 Syrian pounds, noting also that the price of buying a car or tractor does not fall below $7000, thus making the donkey and cart the cheapest available means.

There are 910 horses in Daraa governorate, 43,264 heads of cattle, 779,139 sheep, and 119,054 goats.

 

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