FAO Farmer Field Schools improve animal husbandry practices for women – Syrian Arab Republic
Livestock farming has become more difficult for vulnerable farmers in rural areas of Syria. Animal feed is hard to find or expensive; treatments and vaccinations for animals are not available; markets for livestock products have been disrupted; and artificial insemination programs are no longer functioning to their pre-crisis capacity.
FAO is helping farmers meet these challenges by helping them adopt new practices to improve their livestock-based livelihoods. One of these is to create a Network of Farmer Field Schools (FFS) which provides a platform for farmers to exchange knowledge and conduct practical experiences, enabling them to develop their animal husbandry skills. Fifty FFS have been established in the governorates of Aleppo, Al-Hassakeh, Deir Ez-Zor, Qameshli and rural Damascus, which support more than 800 small herders each with one to four animals on average.
Women are very involved in animal husbandry in Syria: women tend their animals, milk cows and make dairy products for the family. However, their knowledge of best practices is often limited and dramatic increases in input prices have threatened the viability of dairy production.
As part of its smallholder support program, FAO’s FFS program has introduced pastoralists – especially women – to knowledge about good animal husbandry practices and fodder production to increase milk and meat production. . The schools have also enabled pastoralists to better manage their resources as a business, helping them to become more self-reliant and resilient. The FFS also helped women farmers find outlets, some for the first time. “My cow was producing milk that could barely meet our needs, but after learning how to make nutritious feed, my cow is now producing enough milk so that I can sell the surplus in the local market,” said Wardeh Al Omar. , a woman farmer involved in the FFS in Abu Jrein, Aleppo.
Participants are now more aware of the factors that improve animal production. They learned how to produce and store fodder, estimate a cow’s body weight, negotiate with traders, identify the first signs of disease and more. “I became more organized about when and how much to feed my cow, which helped me avoid wasting feed and save it for later,” said Hasna Jasem, a breeder who participates in the FFS. in Aleppo. Women who participated in FFS regained confidence when interacting with buyers in the market. “I can now tell whether a buyer is cheating with a cow’s weight or not, because I know how to weigh my cow and price it based on the market rate,” Hasna explained.
The FFS are an effective tool for innovating and exchanging experiences. Some 15 to 18 farmers attend each school, who are then divided into small groups to discuss and exchange ideas about cultivation and animal husbandry in order to hone their skills and correct any misconceptions they may have.
Hala al Zaher, a facilitator at one of the schools in rural Aleppo, said the school experience was very enriching, especially when two farmers expressed different views, as this could generate a third new one. “FFS change the outlook of farmers and improve their skills,” Hala said.
The schools gave Syrian women the opportunity to practice innovative farming methods and demonstrated how much they can contribute to their families and villages. Women have become successful pastoralists who help lead other farmers to a better future.