The Syrian Al-Jazeera: Extreme Drought and the Dire Cost of Living

By: Firas Mohammad Ali | Tharwa Exclusive | April 29, 2008

Drought conditions in Al-Jazeerah have had a devastating impact on the harvest season: 2008

The current situation in the areas and cities of the Syrian Al- Jazeera, a region that is genuinely relied on for its vast and seemingly endless resources, is growing increasingly tragic. The Al-Jazeera region was always known for its depository of wheat, lentil, barley, cotton and mostly for a “river of black gold” , its large quantities of oil. Yet with all these resources, there have been recent reports of conflict between families in the Al-Qameshli region. And what are these families fighting over, in an area known for its abundant resources? Bread! It has also been reported that this outbreak in violence is not limited to the Al-Qameshli region, yesterday a similar conflict arose outside of a municipal bakery in Amouda.

The story is as follows:

Each year, hundreds of Bedouin families migrate to the Al-Jazeera region from their villages in the Al-Reqah, Adlab and Aleppo so that that their herds can graze in the rich, green areas of Al-Jazeera. This guarantees their livelihood and a supply of food for their herds. If precipitation is abundant the then the Bedouins are assured a prosperous year. If, on the other hand, there is little precipitation at the start of the season, they rush to buy irrigated land. The landowners are generally willing to sell the land in hopes that they don’t lose capital on an unsuccessful project. The Bedouins then allow the livestock to exploit the land and graze joyfully between the years of yellow wheat…

This year, the situation has been terrible as the rains have lacked and deprived those who usually rely on the land. While there is greenery that covers spots of land on the banks of the Tigris River at Al-Malkiyah, barren land in Hakash portends a dangerous desertification process that will be deadly for the people and animals that rely on the land. Only God knows which direction the desert creep will go. In response to the drought, thousands of families have migrated to Damascus and surrounding provinces, like Homs, to find work. For many families the prospect of moving to Damascus and working for a meager wage at a factory is better than unemployment in Al-Jazeera.

Unfortunately, the situation this year has required the Bedouins that have migrated to stay in the area until the end of the summer. The Bedouins make up for the lack of vegetation by buying large quantities of bread to feed their livestock.  In smaller cities like Amouda, one bakery cannot fulfill the needs of the people and the livestock. There are two choices, either the herds are humanized or the people are animalized and this year it appears that the latter is the case. The economic situation is dire; prices are climbing and people are escaping to the city to avoid starvation.

The government has to interfere as the people cannot find  bread to eat… the situation in Al-Jazeera is appalling.