Spring 2008

Agriculture in Syria is always a game controlled by water scarcity. The boundary between those areas that receive 300 mm of rain each year and can produce wheat arcs across the country from the northern highlands westward and then southward parallel to the coastline. Southeast of that line you can grow some barley and other crops, but once the precipitation drops below 200 mm you are done with crops and the Syrian steppe and desert spreads before you, except along the green banks of the Euphrates. But this year the Spring experienced record heat and aridity and parts of Syria received less than 50% of normal precipitation overall. According to the USDA estimates, Syria’s wheat production may drop by 38% compared to last year’s production. Wheat, the ancient crop domesticated here at the dawn of history, makes up 83% of Syria’s grain production. Is this Spring an anomaly or a taste of the future?

As we travel we see that much of the sparse harvest is already in and Bedouin tents are pitched in the fields. The Bedouin rest in the cool shade of the large square tents while their sheep seek shade or wander the fields to graze on the sparse stubble.

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