Syria, Drought, Agriculture, and Social Distress

Syria faced a devastating drought between 2006 and 2010, affecting its most fertile lands. The four years of drought turned almost 60 percent of the nation into a desert. It was a huge amount of land that could not support cattle trading and herding, Chanda says, killing about 80 percent of cattle by 2009.

The water shortage and drought drove up unemployment, in agriculture. So hundreds of thousands of farmers, Chanda says, went to where they might find work: the cities. He says they were met “almost callously” by the Syrian government.

“People felt that they were being discriminated against and not being helped, perhaps because of the sect they belong to,” Chanda says. “I think this dislocation and the dire condition created the … first spark in Dara’a.”

On top of that, the government began awarding the right to drill wells for water on a sectarian basis. So when the rains dried up, desperate people began digging illegal wells, which also became a political act.

The NPR Report