The decade-long Syrian conflict remains the worst humanitarian crisis of the 21st century. The conflict has led to massive displacement and severely damaged physical infrastructure, contributed to significant annual losses in GDP and depreciation of the local currency, increased poverty and unemployment. Sanctions and COVID-19 have exacerbated the impact of the conflict. Today, around 13.4 million people need various forms of assistance inside Syria along with 6 million in acute need. Sixty percent of the Syrian population was food insecure by the end of 2020 and 2 million are estimated to be living in extreme poverty. The conflict has pushed a total of 6.6 million refugees to seek refuge worldwide, of whom 5.6 million are hosted in countries near Syria while 6.7 million people are internally displaced within Syria.
Spontaneous self-organized return is still insignificant (38,235 refugees and 448,019 IDPs in 2020) and is expected to remain low in the near future due to unstable security and limited livelihood opportunities. Resettlement opportunities to third countries is shrinking. Supporting national institutions and empowering local capacities to mitigate the impact of displacement in host countries while working to prepare the ground for early recovery and resilience planning through an area-based approach in Syria is crucial to propose solutions for the Syrian conflict.
Homs governorate was selected for a post-conflict strategic study on the restoration of agricultural livelihoods. Homs is primarily an agriculture governorate (85.5% of the total plant production in Syria) and the sector was highly damaged during the conflict between 2013 and 2015. The active community reconciliation process has offered a minimum security for refugees or IDPs planning voluntarily to return home (50% of Homs population were forced to flee). In addition to that, Homs is the source of origin of 24% and 16% of refugees from Lebanon and Jordan respectively (a total of 300,000 registered refugees). Agriculture livelihoods were selected because they are the main source of livelihoods in Homs and they are a main targeted sector in livelihoods programming in Jordan and Lebanon as host countries. Agriculture is a main targeted sector by the international community to support IDPs and refugees’ temporary economic inclusion.
ESCWA launched an initiative that consists of three different subprojects. The first was the ‘Post-conflict agricultural livelihoods recovery strategy for Homs Governorate’, which examined how agricultural livelihood assets in Homs, which were severely damaged during the conflict, might be restored through a value chain approach. The second and third subprojects were the ‘Understanding livelihood solutions under protracted forced displacement’ case studies, which observed the livelihood situation of Homs’ refugees in Jordan and Lebanon.
The rationale used in the agriculture initiative considers that studying the situation of a specific refugee population (in this case Homs’ refugees) in host countries, and linking it to a livelihood restoration plan at the governorate level in their place of origin inside the Syrian Arab Republic, will help inform and shape livelihood programming and propose context-specific solutions that can equip Syrian residents, internally displaced persons (IDPs), and refugees with the assets required to improve their resilience and self-recovery.
In this context, ESCWA is organizing a regional meeting on “Livelihoods solutions for protracted regional crises: Post-conflict agriculture livelihoods recovery strategy in Homs governorate and livelihoods programming for Homs’ refugees in Lebanon and Jordan” to share the findings of the three sub-projects. The aim of the regional meeting is to highlight and discuss the main findings of the studies based on the conducted secondary and primary reviews that took place during spring and summer 2020. In addition, the meeting aims to provide an empirical example on livelihood solutions under conflict and forced protracted displacement in Jordan, Lebanon and Homs governorate and to validate the policy options proposed by the studies.