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MIXED FARMING SYSTEMS IN TRANSITION: THE CASE OF FIVE VILLAGES ALONG A RAINFALL GRADIENT IN NORTH-WEST SYRIA

  • B. RISCHKOWSKY (a1) (a2), E. F. THOMSON (a3) (a4), R. SHNAYIEN (a1) and J. M. KING (a1)

Abstract

The changes taking place in the mixed farming systems of northwest Syria were examined by re-visiting, in 1996 and 2000, five villages along a rainfall gradient. The villages had been surveyed first in 1977–79. In those villages with moderate rainfall, intensification of crop production, namely a trend towards cereal monoculture and the planting of tree crops, did not lead to specialization in cropping at the expense of sheep ownership. In contrast, households in the areas too dry for most rainfed crops except barley (Hordeum vulgare) were more likely to sell their sheep because they depended heavily on off-farm income. Increases in crop yields were found but these only benefited the families in villages in the higher rainfall zones. Conversely, with the exception of ewe fertility, there was little evidence of improvements in sheep productivity. The mixed farming systems in the five villages sampled are still passing through a period of transition, and the cropping component will undoubtedly continue to change. This is less likely to happen to the small ruminant component in the near future unless the sector is given higher priority in national policy. As a strategy to increase feed production and balance the crop rotations, the prospects for closer crop/livestock integration at the farm level are limited by the many difficulties associated with the introduction of leguminous pasture and forage crops.

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Corresponding author: euan.thomson@talk21.com

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