Agricultural Transformation in Syria: Impact Evaluation of FAO’s Smallholder Support Program

The agricultural sector has always played a vital role in Syria’s economy, for example contributing 25% of Syria’s GDP in 2010. However, the war has exposed and exacerbated the fragility of the sector, which has had a limited ability to cope with climatic and economic shocks. Institutional reform of the agricultural sector may hence be a way to build food security and inclusive growth for Syrian people.

Policies and interventions currently entail both supporting the most vulnerable farmers to ensure their survival and to strengthen commercially active smallholders engaging in markets. In the long-term, the focus of interventions will move from supporting immediate food security needs and reducing negative coping strategies towards a more market-based, integrated and transaction-intense view of the rural and agricultural economy and thus of the larger Syrian economic and institutional transformation in agriculture.

There is only a very limited understanding in the academic literature on how to successfully support such post-conflict institutional transformation process. Correspondingly, there is a lack of knowledge about how to measure transformation processes and outcomes in rural economies emerging from insecurity.

This project will use a quasi-experimental design to study the medium-term impacts of an agricultural FAO intervention. The study will offer insights of relevance beyond Syria on how best to support smallholders and commercial farmers starting to re-engage in post-conflict markets and with institutions – and how best to measure such transformation.

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