5 minute inspiration: How to improve food security in Syria

by 12th Jan 2021
Bread making in Syria Bread making in Syria

“I felt like life will go on, and we are able to find new ways to live a better life.” Nidal is one of more than 150,000 people who worked with CARE’s Food For Peace project to improve food security in Syria. From growing more food, to building bakeries, to monitoring quality — Syrians drove dramatic improvements in their own livelihoods.

What’s more, 41% of those people said the project had positive psychological effects on their lives, including a feeling of self-sufficiency, self-confidence, stability, and feeling safe. Nidal’s advice to others facing the same challenges was: “Depend on yourself to improve your situation and your life.”

With $12.6 million in funding from USAID, the project reached more than 150,000 people directly and 746,594 people indirectly between July 2019 and September 2020 working with local partners.

Project activities included multi-round and emergency cash assistance, in-kind assistance (ready-to-eat rations) and wheat value chain support (wheat purchase from selected farmers participating in another of CARE’s livelihood projects, milling into flour, distribution to bakeries for subsidised bread production, and infrastructure improvements).

How did we do it?

Working with others

The project worked with local partners, bakeries, farmers, and community “bread committees” who monitored quality and made sure that bread was available at the right prices and to people who needed it.

Helping the supply chain connect

Working with a project funded through the UK that was also supporting farmers, the team was able to connect farmers to bakeries who could buy subsidised wheat and offer a higher price. Some bakeries were able to improve their infrastructure or get grants. Those bakeries were then able to sell to people who got cash or vouchers, so the market was able to work for everyone.

Let communities run the show

85% of farmers said they had been consulted about their needs, and communities helped decide who qualified for benefits. 85% of people knew about how to get support, and felt that support went to those who need it most. Communities set up “bread agents” who could take food to people who lived far away or were not able to easily travel to bakeries and “bread committees” to monitor quality and price.

Support people in stages

In round 1, almost all of the cash transfers went into buying food. By the 8th round, people were also putting money into health care and paying down debts. For farmers, the project helped people access seeds. If they planted the seeds, then they could access fertilisers.

Listen to feedback, and then change

The project set up hotlines and other ways for people to send in complaints and suggestions (Whatsapp was especially popular). They also used project data systems to see that they needed to offer bigger vouchers for people, set up better distribution systems to reach those with mobility issues, and set up different distribution systems so women felt safe.

What did we achieve?

People have more food

People were 10 times more likely to have enough food. 48% of people ate better quality food, and 63% of people ate more diverse meals.

Markets got stronger

Farmers actually grew more food, and bakeries were able to produce and sell more bread. 65% of farmers say this helped them overcome challenges accessing markets. Bakeries said bread prices were more stable and higher demand made it possible for everyone to produce more food.

People’s lives are better

57% of people said cash transfers improved their lives considerably, and 42% of farmers said their lives improved considerably. (97% of people said their lives improved at all, and 99% of people were satisfied with the project.)

More people have jobs

As one person said, “The project had a huge positive impact because it activated the mills in the region and created job opportunities, as 70 workers work in our mill, which means 70 families benefited.”

Communities are stronger

23% of farmers said there were community-wide improvements in solidarity as people were able to support needy families.

People have better mental health

41% of people pointed to better mental health, feeling more self-sufficient and self-confident.

Want to learn more?

Read the evaluation.

Emily Janoch

Emily Janoch is Senior Technical Advisor on Knowledge Management for the CARE USA Food and Nutrition Security team focusing on ways to better learn from and share practical experience on eradicating poverty through empowering women and girls. She focuses on learning from programming and using that learning to improve impact.

With four years of on-the-ground experience in West Africa, 10 years of development experience, and academic publications on community engagement and the human element in food security in Africa, Emily is especially interested in community-led development. She has experience in food security, nutrition, health, governance, and gender programming, and has a BA in International Studies from the University of Chicago, and a Masters' in Public Policy in International and Global Affairs from the Harvard Kennedy School.

Email: ejanoch@care.org