Water: “Syria Should abandon its Policy of Food Self-Sufficiency,” Elhadj and Al-Khouli

Drought has forced farmers to use untreated sewage to irrigate a field.

Syria Comment’s Elie Elhadj supports the view of Yasin al-Khouli recently published in Syria Steps. Both analysts explain why Syria should push tourism and and abandon the time honored policy of promoting agricultural self-sufficiency. For too long, Syria has viewed food as a strategic product. For reasons of national defense and pride, Syria has poured money into food self-sufficiency. Elie explains why this policy is too expensive, drains precious water supplies, and is bad for both the economy and defense. He writes

جميع المشاريع السياحية بسورية لا تَشغل واحد بالألف من الأراضي الزراعية المتوفرة بها والتي تبلغ مساحتها ما لا يقل عن عشرة ملايين هكتار

I wholeheartedly agree with Yaseen Khouli.

His courage is admirable. It runs in the face of the official sanctioned discourse on a delicate slogan like food self-sufficiency in an arid/semi arid Syria.

A small correction, though, regarding the surface of arable land in Syria. In 2008, the arable surface was 6 million hectares.

لذلك من المستغرب يقول خولي في دراسته التصريح الصادر من وزارة الزراعة بأن عام 2025 سنستورد كل المنتجات الزراعية وأننا ملزمون بالحفاظ على كامل الرقعة الزراعية

I find the statement by the Ministry of Agriculture surprising. How could Syria “import all its agricultural products in 2005” and be obligated at the same time to “maintain the entire agricultural surface”?

I do hope that Syria stops investing in irrigation and land reclamation and invest instead in industrial and, yes, I agree with Mr. Khouli regarding investment in tourism, to generate the forex to purchase foodstuffs from rain soaked countries with lakes and rivers and protect the water quality and volume of Syria’s aquifers. As I said previously, Syria has sufficient water resources to feed a maximum of some 15 million people, not more.

وأشارت الدراسة إلى اعتراض البعض على تطوير السياحة بأن البلد تفتقر للمياه الكافية لاستقبال ملايين السواح معتبرةً وهذا الإدعاء مغالطة كبيرة لأن الزراعة تستهلك نحو ستة وثمانون بالمئة من المياه المستخدمة بسورية

Mr. Khouli is correct. 86% of all water used in Syria, as well as other countries, is used in agriculture. A person needs one m3 per annum for drinking, 100 m3 for household use, but 1,000 m3 for food. Said differently, roughly nine-tenth of our water needs is to meet our eating requirements.

ويعتبر ما نصدره من الإنتاج الزراعي وخاصةً القطن الخام تصديراً للمياه بأبخس الأسعار حيث يحتاج إنتاج كيلو غرام من القطن لنحو متر مكعب من المياه بالسقاية التقليدية

Agricultural products are virtual water. Mr. Khouli is correct in saying that exporting cotton, all agricultural produce for that matter, is synonymous with exporting water. A small correction, however, regarding cotton’s use of water to grow. One kg. of cotton in Syria uses five m3 of water to grow, not one m3.

Under temperate climate conditions, a kg of wheat uses 1,000 kgs of water to grow, a kg of beef; 16,000 kgs of water, an apple; 70 kg, a cup of coffee; 140 kg, a slice of bread; 40 kg, a glass of beer (for the infidels only); 75 kg….

لذلك يكفينا ضمان الأمن الغذائي بالزراعة ولا ضرورة لإنفاق عشرات المليارات لدعم فائض زراعي من جميع الأنواع

Syria produces no surplus foodstuffs. Syria imports quietly about a third of its foodstuffs needs today. Syria’s groundwater plus rainwater can provide food for 15 million people, not 22 million.

I share Mr. Khouli’s judgment that the Ministry of Agriculture brought disaster to the country. The responsibility should also be shared with the Ministry Irrigation, which I have been advocating should be abolished.

Mr. Khouli is a valuable asset. Syria’s politicians would do well to listen to him.

Yasin al-Khouli

باحث سوري يتهم وزارة الزراعة بتخريب اقتصاد البلد….
خولي: يجب إطلاق المشاريع السياحية في الأراضي الزراعية
26/10/2010

دمشق- سيرياستيبس:

رأى المهندس ياسين الخولي صاحب المكتب السوري الاستشاري للاستثمارات أن المسؤولين في وزارة الزراعة (وبنية حسنة) يقومون بعملية مدمرة لاقتصاد البلد وللسياحة السورية التي بعد تأخر طويل عن مثيلاتها المتوسطية أخذت بالانطلاق بنجاح وظهرت تباشيرها الواعدة وذلك بدعوى الغيرة والمحافظة على الأراضي الزراعية التي لم يجد حُماتها من سبيل لتحقيق غايتهم سوى القيام بحملة تجميد المشاريع الاستثمارية السياحية إضافة للصناعية فأوقفت مئات طلبات ترخيص سياحي وصناعي مع أن البلد تفتقر بشدة لهذه المشاريع فقد أصبحت الفنادق القائمة عاجزة عن استيعاب السواح لدرجة أن أصحاب مكاتب السياحة طلبوا من وزير السياحة في معرض السياحة ببرلين التخفيف من حملة الدعاية للسياحة السورية لعدم توفر أماكن مبيت كافية بالفنادق السورية لاستقبال السواح وأصبحت أسعارها من أعلى الأسعار بالعالم. كما أننا بأشد الحاجة لتشغيل اليد العاملة الكبيرة العاطلة عن العمل. والسياحة تعتبر أكبر مشغل لليد العاملة بأجور مجزية كما أن أكثرها مردوداً للأراضي التي تشغلها إذ أن الاستثمار بالزراعة لهكتار واحد من معظم الأراضي الزراعية السورية مع شح الأمطار لا يحتاج استثماره لأكثر من فلاح واحد بمردود ضعيف لا يكفي لإعالة عائلته بشكل لائق مما يدفعه في كثير من الأحيان للتخلي عن زراعته والهجرة للمدينة للانضمام إلى صفوف العاطلين عن العمل بها بينما يؤمن إشغال هكتار من الأرض بمشاريع سياحية مئات الوظائف بأجور مجزية إضافة لكون تصدير إنتاج الهكتار الزراعي ضعيف جداً بينما استثماره سياحياً يجلب القطع الأجنبي عشرات أضعاف إنتاجه الزراعي….

Comments (57)


Majhool said:

Interesting subject. Food self-sufficiency is of a strategic importance, let alone its positive impact on keeping inflation at bay.
The culprit in Syria is not agricultural, rather its the mismanagement of agriculture. Go to Google Earth and check out Israel farm land. They must be doing something right. Syria should invest in effective water management schemes. Making syrians at the mercy of international food prices is wrong policy.

In the US food is cheap due to government support.

Tourism, in the context of third world countries, drives inflation up and turn the population into servants.

October 27th, 2010, 2:50 pm

 

Off The Wall said:

Mr. Khouli’s argument is misleading in the following:

1. The need to import all agricultural products by 2025 does not mean that 100% of food consumption must be imported, it means that portions of all types of food will need to be imported. This may be 20% of grains, 10% of vegetables, etc…. THis is notwithstanding the fact that the numbers reflect population increase under the assumption of maintaining both the size and efficiency of current irrigation practice. Mr. Khouli’s “study” leaves half of the picture unexposed.

2. Since when tourism was a high paying job? Tourism is a high return investment, but never a high paying job, especially for the majority of its workers. Tourism means an expansion of service industry with many more waiters and waitresses than managers. Workers in tourism must remain close to the locations of their work (big cities), and urban slum belts will only become larger, with the only difference being that those living in these slums must leave their homes in the morning wearing cleaner clothes to please the tourists. This is not progress.

3. While I agree that the biggest threat to agriculture has been illegal and legal appropriation of fertile agricultural lands to urban sprawl, but that also is a double failure not of agricultural policy only but of an entire development policy based on arcane notion of strategic crops such as cotton.

4. Agriculture/Total water use ratios are almost the same worldwide except in countries where water is abundant but land is not. The number to look at is the (Agricultural Withdrawal)/(Total Renewable Supplies), which are harder to quantify. (FAO recognizes that in the opening paragraph introducing their famous AQUASTAT data base. That said, Syira’s ratio in the reference year of 2000 (72%) is rather high and is a sign of impending water crisis. But the solution of abandoning agriculture for tourism is misleading. Agricultural policies must be reviewed and they must be established in tandem with water use policies and water development policy. Such must include integrated management, development of basin authorities, abandoning cotton as a strategic crop, strict control of ground water resources, and incentive for adoption of modern technological advances that result in better irrigation efficiency. Cash crop are also labor intensive, and labor policy can be established to make jobs in agriculture as lucrative if not better than those in tourism.

There is much to be done before Syria abandons agriculture. Syria needs to support its agriculture by ensuring better water use efficiency.

October 27th, 2010, 7:02 pm

 

why-discuss said:

I totally disagree with Mt Al Khouli who wants to turn Syria into another post civil war Lebanon!

It is the easy solution to turn to Tourism as the panacea!

TOURISM??

Like everywhere in the world, tourism is totally dependent on political stability. The least incident drive the tourists out and leaves the country that depends too much on it, in the gutter.
Our area is NOT stable and won’t be for a long time.
Tourism bring forex but also often bring styles of life that are foreign and could be shocking to a conservative society (alcool, drugs, nudity etc..).
Tourism may disfigure ( it has already) the coastal areas with huge and ugly apartments blocks (Go an see what happen to the Coast of Turkey or Spain and Lebanon
The kind of tourism that Syria now has is religious and cultural and it should stay in this category. Most tourists are iranians and arabs, culturally close to Syria.
Agriculture needs only modernization, but should never be dropped.
Industrialization is the way to go with again modernization.

October 27th, 2010, 11:06 pm

 

Water expert said:

It seems Tony Alan’s virtual water theory is beginning to take shape in Syria. Indeed irrigated agriculture is the main culprit and a LOT can be done to improve its efficiency and especially the overexploitation of the groundwater aquifers by pumpwells. Diversification of economy would relieve a lot of pressure from these aquifers.

One note about Israel, while it is the most high-tech country in the Middle East with highly efficient agricultural systems, they do divert a lot of their water from the Sea of Galilee with their National Water Carrier. To the effect that, together with Syria and Jordan, Israel these three countries have managed to be the main cause why the River Jordan will probably DRY UP withou the next 2 YEARS !

October 28th, 2010, 3:43 am

 

Carlito said:

It is interesting that at the same time international organizations are warning about a looming food crisis, some people want Syria to Abandon agriculture and switch to Tourism! I mean, is this even an argument? Do you think Syria can get 25 million tourists a year to create enough income and jobs to compensate for this switch? And even if we manage, tourism is highly unstable especially when you happen to be in the hottest region in the world and is also subject to change in the tastes of tourists. Many countries have embraced tourism, saw rapid growth in the sector, just to see the number of tourists decline as people started to discover new destinations.

Also, dear Khouli and Elie, Syria has always been an agricultural country (hell, agriculture started in Syria) and destroying agriculture will not only destroy the lifestyles of millions of Syrians but will also make us, as Why-Discuss, pointed out above some sort of post-war Lebanon. The most idiotic thing about this argument is the following sentence from Khouli article:

ولعل مصدر التصريح يخشى أن تتحول سورية إلى بلد كتايوان وسنغافورة وهونغ كونغ ودول الخليج العربي وهي من البلاد النادرة بالعالم بالوضع المذكور وتستورد فعلاً كل المنتجات الزراعية ولو حدث هذا وأصبحنا مثلهم سيكون هذا مدعاة للسرور لأنه علامة لتقدم كبير على غرارهم

The guy has obviously no sense of geography whatsoever (not to mention that he regards GCC states as a model for Syria!!). Maybe he should take a look at the map and see how large Hong Kong and Singapore are. These are CITIES and cities can become economic hubs especially when they happen to be in the fastest growing region in the world but to apply this argument to Syria is laughable.

October 28th, 2010, 5:07 am

 

Alien in Syria said:

to MAJHOL,
Palestine is reach of water like Lebanon and Israel is stealing all water to irrigation and jewish settlements, even the one in occupied west bank and Gaza. What about the Tiberia Lake? Part of this water is Syrian.
Personal comment:
Touris for sure is not the only panacea, and it strictly relies on stability (not always available), but did you know that in countries like France and Italy is one of the main source of income? Syria is a quite stable country, even if has bad pubblicity abroad (when the last war? quite zero criminality in the streets etc.). There is an huge increase of tourism in Syria (at least the outhorities says that) but as a personal perception, i feel most is Iranian and Iraqi shia religious tourism, who does not bring so much money, they are not ‘rich tourists’.
Tourism has to bring european, americans, japanese, chinese, russians and all the people who have money to spend, but they will never come in mass until Syria will have decent infrostructures (a couple of days tourisms in Syria compared with a similar couple of days in Turkey will teach who does not understand what i am talking about). I travelled a lot for tourism in Syria and i did in all Europe and many part of Asia: in Syria the turists infrostructures and services as well as the state of preservation of museums and “athar” old monuments and cities is simply SHAMEFULL. Syria is reacher than Turkey, Greece, Italy etc. but does not exploits this source.
Tourism will bring capitals, money, to the private as well as to the pubblic sector which can be used to developt the private as well as the pubblic (infrostructures like streets, decent hotels, decent museums etc.).
Maybe we need to wait the second come of Jesus to Damascus to understand this basic things. He is the only one that can bring millions of tourists in Syria with the actual infrostructure.
Regards

October 28th, 2010, 8:36 am

 

jad said:

Simply: Outrageous!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Yes we reach a catastrophic level of mismanagement, SO, Work on fixing the management system,
Yes we reach a catastrophic level of water lost along with the drought coming from global warming and environmental pollutions allover the globe, SO,Work on fixing the waste water issues and use technology and policies toward a better usage, force it on people if necessary.
Yes we reach a catastrophic level of corruption, SO, work on fixing this terrible illness we have and update, clean and give back the justice system it’s prominent place in the Syrian society,
Yes we reach a catastrophic level of poverty, SO, work on fixing the social unjust and have somehow democratic system in place, communicate and listen to people.
Have a real and clear planning program for all those problems, but to come with this idea to KILL A country and give up food production for stupid tourism industry?! that is just outrageous idea to circulate or even to debate..horrible, terrible and so ugly idea for our Syria.

October 28th, 2010, 2:37 pm

 

Elie Elhadj said:

You can bring water and money and make the desert bloom, until either the water or the money runs out.

Syria has turned the balance in five of its seven water basins negative.

Syria has no alternative but to switch from exporting its water in the form of cotton and agricultural produce to exporting low using water industrial and other manufactured goods, plus attracting tourists, in order to import high using water foodstuffs from countries that are rich in lakes, rivers, and rain.

This prescription has nothing to do with patriotism or sentimentalities. This prescription is necessitated by the laws of nature. No water: No agriculture. It is that simple.

Syria will sooner than later be forced to abandon irrigation. Why? because irrigation requires water that Syria lacks. Syria should focus its agriculture on rain fed lands only, with investments to improve the yield from rain fed lands.

Look at Saudia, after spending more than $100 billion on the mirage of wheat self-sufficiency, it abandoned this naive pursuit altogether in January 2008. By 2016, Saudia will be importing its entire needs of Wheat. Why? because Saudia ran out of water.

From dust to dust!

Elie

October 28th, 2010, 3:17 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

What Elie is trying to explain is the concept of “comparative advantage”. In the case of Syria and irrigation it would I guess be a policy of comparative “disadvantage”.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparative_advantage

October 28th, 2010, 4:03 pm

 

jad said:

Dear Elie,
What you are saying in your last statement is different form what Khouly article state.

Cotton is not food, yes I’m with you to stop planting cotton but don’t go out of the rational way ans ask to stop agricultural altogether for the mirage of tourist industry, (don’t we have enough bad land to build on other than futile soil? What idea is that?

What I’m writing has nothing to do with patriotism it has lots to do with Planning, stating the obvious doesn’t make me a patriot which is something I don’t deny or feel ashame of.
Being a good Planner has lots to do with giving accepted solutions not outlandish ideas that we both know will only make things worse than they are already.
Good planning is when you have a solutions through a combinations of science and communication not through devastating ideas.

Syria are not making the desert bloom, the land where Syrian agricultural sector located are good land and very futile, so the desert issue doesn’t apply to the subject.

You, Dr. Elhadj, in all and every article you write about the water issue, always give technical solutions, what happened to that?
Why you are criticizing my strong disagreement with an idea stating “Syria Should abandon its Policy of Food Self-Sufficiency”!! it sounds terrible ‘Abandon’ ‘food’ ‘agriculture’ how bad do you want it to sound before I criticizes it?

“Dust to Dust” when I decide to drain my brain from ideas and solutions and die, until then a plan like Mr. Khouly to give up everything is unaccepted.

J.

October 28th, 2010, 4:29 pm

 

jad said:

Dear Ehsani,
As you already know using one planning theory was never a solution, every theory in planning has its advantages and weakness, and we always need to mix and match them together to get in the right direction, since there is no one condition that fits all
SITAR! remember?

My mistake, I just notice that you are talking about Economic theories not Planning theories. Sorry 🙂

October 28th, 2010, 4:34 pm

 

Elie Elhadj said:

Hello Jad,

You said: “don’t go out of the rational way and ask to stop agricultural altogether”.

I never said get out of agriculture altogether. What I said is the following:
Syria should focus its agriculture on rain fed lands only, with investments to improve the yield from rain fed lands.

As you know, agriculture produce grows under two conditions. The first is rain-fed condition. The second is man made irrigation schemes from pumping groundwater or surface water or building dams and the like. What I am calling for is stopping investment in irrigation, again not rain fed lands.

You said: (don’t we have enough bad land to build on other than futile soil?

The idea here is not the physical land. The idea is monetary investment.
Instead of wasting scarce financial resources on man made irrigation and land reclamation schemes, the money involved should be invested in higher rewarding area, among which is tourism industry.

May I repeat, Syria does not have the water needed for irrigation anymore. So, please preserve what is left and concentrate on rain only.

Dust to dust is the title of an article I had written a while back on Saudia’s agricultural folly and appears on my Blog. An earlier expanded version was titled Camels Don’t Fly, Deserts don’t Bloom… and appears on the SOAS/KCL Water Research Group:
http://www.soas.ac.uk/waterissues/papers/

Elie

October 28th, 2010, 5:10 pm

 

Off the Wall said:

Elie
You are assuming that industry is low-water demand activity, but that is not always the case.

Well planned agriculture, getting rid of legacy crops such as cotton, and improving agricultural productivity, while maintaining appropriate quality through control of nutrient and pesticides, is in fact a comparative advantage of Syria. The trick is to turn each liter of water used in agriculture to more value, be it the value of providing clean water to citizens, or the value of exporting cash crop while maintaining balance.

None of this can be done if Syria does not control its population growth. We are currently at 3% annually, and we should drop that to 0.7% to 1% to maintain decent work force (given that we are a youthful society), which means that workforce will continue to be available for at least 10 to 15 years even at the impossible 0% population growth.

Syria is not a desert country, it has internal water resources, which if utilized appropriately, along with its share in the international rivers (Euphrates and Tigris) should be able to maintain a viable, highly productive agriculture.

A study conducted in the Island of Mallorca , one of the most attractive tourist locations in the world showed the negative impacts of tourism on both the water supplies of the Island and on the degradation of beaches due to exceeding the carrying (load) capacity of the beaches. The study showed that the reduction of agricultural demand from 70% of total renewable water supplies to 50%, mandated by Eurozone agricultural policies, in the island was rapidly offset by the increase in water demand due to tourism. The authors also reported that while the locals (whose numbers grew substantially after the tourism boom) consumed 300 liters-person/day, the tourists used nearly 570 liters-person/day. Despite of major effort for desalination of brackish water and of treating effluent water and using it for farming and other uses, the island had to construct few desalination plants, at substantial cost and increased fossil fuel burning to accommodate the tourists. So Tourism, is not the answer. It may be the answer for Mr. Khouli’s investment advisees looking for a fast buck, but it is not the answer for Syria, not in terms of water resources, nor in terms of development.

Granted, with tourism come jobs, some of which pay more than existing jobs. But overall, excessive reliance on tourism, may in fact, be catastrophic. Here is a segment of the study, which shows the future of Syria’s shores

The result of the impact caused by urbanisation and beach renourishment is the neutralisation of the beach as a natural system and the transformation of this coastal area into an urban beach. The term ‘ur- ban beach’ refers to a beach with urban and archi- tectural elements as boundaries, disconnected from the dune field, and requiring artificial nourishment due to the absence of sediment (Fig. 3). In fact, an urban beach does not operate, either totally or par- tially, as a dynamic natural system. Rather, it be- comes a sandy solarium, which emulates specific functions of a beach, but whose stability is not sus- tainable in the long run

October 28th, 2010, 5:31 pm

 

jad said:

100 Ahleen Dr. Elie,

You wrote;
“Syria should focus its agriculture on rain fed lands only, with investments to improve the yield from rain fed lands.”
If that isn’t a suggestion to get rid of agricultural altogether what is?
Please tell me, how many ‘FOOD’ plants can Syrians depend on without any kind of irrigation but RAIN? with your recipe it will cost me $15 to make Taboule and $20 to make Fatoush and forget about Babaghanouj, Mtaball, Mhammara, or anykind of dish that needs vegetable in it..
Are you saying that there are no other techniques/technology to use less water and produce anything in Syrian lands? There are many, FORCE THEM ON OUR FARMERS AND CITIZENS.

“The idea here is not the physical land”
I disagree, what Mr. Khouly saying and meaning is the actual land, as OTW explain to you, Mr. Khouly is working for the benefits of his clients, and if he really care about us all he would’ve convince his clients to do more infrastructural projects that Syria needs instead of selling us his suspicious touristic ideas.

“Dust to dust”
Syria in not the Saudi Arabia, we have the fertile land and we must use it and use our natural resources responsibly not “abandon” her.

October 28th, 2010, 6:05 pm

 

Nour said:

I have to agree with Jad here. I don’t buy the argument that Syria does not have enough water to invest in agriculture. That is a cop-out argument. The problem is not merely the scarcity of water, it is the mismanagement of available water. And as OTW explained above, investment in industry and tourism also requires water. Central California does not get much more rainfall than does Syria, yet it is considered the breadbasket of the US. Why? Because here water preservation and irrigation are at a much more advanced level than in Syria. No one is saying that Syria should not invest in tourism, but to make tourism the backbone of your economy is utter lunacy and will only lead to complete disaster. Syria should definitely invest in better irrigation systems and more advanced agricultural techniques, rather than abandoning agriculture altogether, which is tantamount to telling Syria to commit suicide.

October 28th, 2010, 6:42 pm

 

Norman said:

In the seventies , The baath party was blamed for concentrating it’s efforts on industrialization of the Syrian economy instead of concentrating on Agriculture that Syria was known for , The Syrian government was blamed for destroying the agriculture which pushed many of the farmers and the workers in the country side to cities , apparently Syria decided after what she saw as a weakness in our industrialize sector to move back and invest in Agriculture ,

The push for Syria to be self sufficient in food come from the lack of international law which allowed the Iraqis to die from Hunger and the Palestinians to be under blockade , in an open free market , Syria can import food from other areas of the world but with what we see , Syria can be put under sanction any time the US and Israel want and starve the Syrians into submission , and that we should try to avoid , we should remember that even in the US the government subsidize farming ,

About having less people in Damascus , short of forcing people into buss es and moving them out , Syrians move to Damascus because of jobs , Syria can use tax incentives to have more jobs in other parts of the country and pull people there for the same reason they come to Damascus , (( JOBS )),

About what kind of economy Syria should have , I think central planning never worked before and will not work in the future , so the best think the Syrian government can do is having low taxes and provide financing for projects and get out of the way and if improving agriculture need to be done by large corporations that knows how to farm and irrigate , it might be what Syria needs to move to the 21st century farming ,

October 28th, 2010, 10:14 pm

 

LeoLeoni said:

From what I understood Elie never said that no Syrian should work in agriculture. Nevertheless, if agriculture is that lucrative and the return on investment was positive, then it should be at the discretion of the farmer and not the government to take the risks and invest more on his land. But what is happening is actually the opposite where millions of farmers just depend on the government for subsidies and more inefficient projects that empty our tax coffers and water reserves.

Elie, farmers and their unions have considerable political power and influence. The Baath party coup in 1963 was strongly supported by the farmers who benefited greatly from the injustices of nationalizations and land confiscations. In return for their political support, the government have returned favor by offering billions in subsidies throughout the years. The 50% quota on parliament seats given to farmers and labors are also an example of the power such group holds. While the rest of the world was shifting away agricultural based economies into the industrial and service sectors, Syria decided to stick to the former.

These policies have alienated millions of educated Syrians who found the environment detrimental to their lives in which they had no alternative but to find another country to live in. Personally I have no problem if the majority of the GDP came from agriculture, as long as we have a comparative advantage in doing so and without the continuance of failed government intervention in the sector. But since the statistics and studies show that we don’t have a comparative advantage, these failed projects could have been invested more efficiently in other sectors, like infrastructure and education. I don’t see a reason why everything needs to be politicized from a populist perspective because that is the reason we are in such state in the first place. It is time for us to move on.

October 28th, 2010, 11:32 pm

 

Ziad said:

Syria’s share of the Euphrates River is 14 km3. It can also tab 2 km3 from the Tigris River. Even after the loss of 2 km3 due to surface evaporation, that leaves 14 b m3. Assuming a nominal value of .2$ per m3, translates into a B$2.8. Not to utilize this available resource borders on insanity. A 10 km wide strip on each side of the Euphrates is 2 million ha. It can surely be economically irrigated by simply pumping and piping the water without the need to mega size water projects. Grains and cotton are the wrong crops, but olive, almonds, pistachio and other fruit bearing trees, drip irrigated would be more suitable. It is not important that Syria becomes self-sufficient in wheat, as long as there are exportable agricultural products to compensate for the imports. The issue is the utilization of an available resource in a rational and economic manner. Besides the economic benefits and jobs, there are important and significant climatic benefits.

October 28th, 2010, 11:32 pm

 

Mr. President said:

Syria does not have enough beachfront kilometres to support described tourism. it cannot do what turkey, Egypt, Thailand,… did. that is to give free land and free taxes to beach developers. it does not have the beaches and businesses do not pay taxes anyway. you can fly to Turkey,Egypt,.. for one-week-all-inclusive for the cost of $400. who can compete with that?. Syria can offer historical and religious tourism. however, the cost of building the proper infrastructure to support such tourism is tremendous (water, hotels, road, …). Syria needs the private sector to build such infrastructure.
the comparative advantages of Syria include: Sun energy, educated work force, location ( the middle of the middle east), it is about time for Syria to provide the tools needed for private investors to come in. they will come to invest in efficient agriculture, water resource development, in industrial and service economies. the last time i went to Syria i realized that I would need to dump at least $1000,000 cash to start any decent size business. heck I would need to throw $500,000 cash just to provide a middle class living for my family (house, cars, furniture,…). I understood from many that 30% of Syria’s real estate is vacant. the government has to find a way to crush this inflated real estate market, built a true legal system where you can resolve a contract dispute in one year and not in 20 years. build a labor law that allows you to replace a lazy worker within hours and not years…. really simple. make it so attractive for investors to jump. enough of this tweaking BS about social economy.

October 29th, 2010, 3:05 am

 

Elie Elhadj said:

EHSANI2,

You are correct in saying: “What Elie is trying to explain is the concept of “comparative advantage”.

I have explained this point on a number of occasions on SC. I would like to amplify this important point in some detail.

Investing in any type of project whatever should be pursued if justified on a purely rate of return on investment basis. Irrigation and land reclamation projects are no exception. These must be evaluated according to their rate of return on investment with full costing of water that ensures maintaining the quantity and quality of the aquifers and accounting for the negative and positive externalities of production and consumption.

A rate of return on investment criterion would diversify GDP sources. The diversification would enhance employment opportunities in rural areas and mitigate the negative effects of food imports on rural employment. A rate of return approach diverts the foreign currencies that would otherwise be allocated to irrigation and land reclamation to higher return investments. A rate of return approach invests taxpayers’ money and national wealth in more rewarding projects for the country as a whole, not to one segment of the population at the expense of the others. A rate of return on investment criterion can help steer GDP on a path of optimal growth.

Other approaches to scarce resource allocation are inefficient because of the ethical, ideological, and emotional bias that typically influence decisionmakers and are often driven by narrow personal interests. Such debates could be particularly intense when dealing with water issues, which impinge on poor sections of the population as well as on the environmental services provided by water. Important issues include: How much of taxpayer money should be invested in dams and irrigation? What volume of non-renewable groundwater ought to be extracted? Should the water be used to supply householders or irrigation, or for which crops should it be used and where? How much water, if any, should be conserved for environmental protection or for future generations?

Applying a rate of return criterion makes water extraction and delivery a central factor in the cost of production. This issue is controversial. It represents a departure from attitudes developed as a result of poverty and age-old customary practices that expect water to be free of charge. However, population explosion in Syria, combined today with insufficient water resources must bring new realism into ancient expectations and practices.

My own research on Syria’s government investment in irrigation between 1988 and 2000 led me to the conclusion that the rate of return of that investment was negative, not even zero!

LEOLEONI,

You are correct in saying: “Elie never said that no Syrian should work in agriculture”. What I said is this: Syria should focus its agriculture on rain fed lands only, with investments to improve the yield from rain fed lands.

OFF THE WALL,
Good hearing from you. You said that I am “assuming that industry is low-water demand activity, but that is not always the case”.

In the case of Syria, just like the great majority of countries, the share of water use in agriculture is in the region of 85%, industrial use; in the region 6%-10%, and the rest for household use.

I agree with you: “The trick is to turn each liter of water used in agriculture to more value”. Said differently: More crop per drop!

You are absolutely correct in saying: “None of this can be done if Syria does not control its population growth”. Yes, sir. Syria will find it exceedingly difficult to raise per capita income seriously with this kind of population growth. Syria must not listen to the ulama or the Pope.

Tourism is one of the investment that could provide a superior rate of return on investment than other areas. Each project must, however, be evaluated on its own merits. I am certain that Mr. Khouli would agree to subject his advocated projects to such a criterion.

JAD,

You said re. my statement in comment 12 that Syria should focus its agriculture on rain fed lands only, with investments to improve the yield from rain fed lands: “If that isn’t a suggestion to get rid of agricultural altogether what is?”

Syria depends on rain-fed lands a great deal. Of Syria’s six million hectares in arable land, 4.6 million hectares is rain-fed and the rest, 1.35 million hecatres being irrigated.

If it’ll cost you, JAD, $15 to make Taboule and $20 to make Fatoush, then do not eat tabouleh and fatoush!

Re. Mr. Khouli, I have no idea who he works for. What he said, however, is like gold. In exporting fruits, vegetables, cotton, sheep, and banadora Syria is shipping away its scarce water. Syria cannot afford such ill advised practices anymore. That’s what Mr. Khouli is saying.

“Dust to dust”. Bring water and money and you can make a desert bloom. That’s no accomplishment for anyone. In fact it is ignorant, nutty, and irresponsible to do that. Syria has been on a dangerous course in its hydraulic mission. It ruined five of its seven water basins. It is about time to change course before it becomes too late. Otherwise, nature will do it for Syria, with catastrophic consequences that’ll make today’s sad situation in the North a child’s play.

NOUR,
You said: “I don’t buy the argument that Syria does not have enough water to invest in agriculture”.

Why don’t you get the figures for yourself? Central California, which you bring up is threatened with disaster. Its manicured farms are in a great peril. The Colorado River is in dire straits.

NORMAN,

Your analysis, correct as it is, will not help solve Syria’s current water challenges. It is necessary to change course, before it becomes too late.

ZiIYAD,

Syria’s share of the Euphrates waters is not 14 billion m3 per annum. Please remember that Iraq must be given 58% of the flow from Turkey, according to the April 17, 1989 memorandum between Syria and Iraq.

Elie

October 29th, 2010, 4:57 am

 

Mr.President said:

Elie,
Cowboy!. you are gooooood.
and this email ain’t no Halloween trick.
Mr.President

October 29th, 2010, 7:57 am

 

Mr.President said:

Elie,
Cowboy!. you are gooooood.
and this email ain’t no Halloween trick.
Mr.President

October 29th, 2010, 7:59 am

 

EHSANI2 said:

Elie,

You have brought a very important discussion to the fore. Till I read your work on this topic the first time, I was not aware of the depth and breadth of the problems surrounding this critical resource in Syria.

Having had the pleasure of meeting with Elie in person recently, I think that we must consider ourselves lucky to have him here on this forum. Elie does not comment unless he is armed with facts. His research and depth of knowledge in this issue is tremendous.

LeoLeoni,

As usual, an excellent comment.

October 29th, 2010, 8:03 am

 

Jad said:

Elie,
what is the return of the 4.6m ha and the 1.35m ha in terms of food, money and how many Syrians work in those two areas?
What about the drought? How many lands out if the 4.6m Ha are dead now? What if the drought become the norms which is a fact thinking oh global warming and environment changes, can we depend on that alone for agriculture? I doubt.

Ill ask again: Does or Doesn’t the use of efficient watering technique help? From your reply to Nour it seems that it doesn’t even in the richest and most advanced country in the world.

You proved my point about the effect of your idea which was that vegetables and fruit’s prices will not be affordable to any average Syrian.

Why don’t Mr Khouly asked to stop exporting vegetables and Fruits?

I’m not convinced that abandon Agriculture is a solution to anything, not to water problem nor to the pinky dreams of Tourism ‘industry’ for me this is a surrender to policy failure which we shouldn’t collectively as Syrian Society pay for and it must be researched and find a more reasonable solutions for that and we all decide to live with and pay the price.

I agree with you and OTW about the population issue there are needs to be addressed and dealt with, however, shouldn’t that be the natural result of any country’s progress?

October 29th, 2010, 10:36 am

 

EHSANI2 said:

So, let us get this straight:

Syria is listed as one of five food exporters among Arab countries without having nearly enough water resources to back up this strategy.

On the other hand, it reportedly has unique tourist attractions, with 3000 historic sites.

The bashing of tourism here by a number of readers is baffling.

October 29th, 2010, 10:51 am

 

Elie Elhadj said:

MR.PRESIDENT,

I like your style! Hope that we meet in person at some point. I live in London.

EHSANI@,

Thanks.
Our wonderful two and a half hours lunch in NY was memorable.

JAD,

You know pretty well that Syria’s aquifers are ruined. Syria cannot afford any further white elephant irrigation waste.

Elie

October 29th, 2010, 11:19 am

 

Jad said:

Elie,
You keep coming back with the same thing over and over and over without any compromise or differentiations between the big mismanaged irrigation projects and the more well planned smart projects we are asking for, and as a result you are ready and willing to get rid of the whole sector for a dream in service industry that doesn’t build national wealth, it’s like treating cancer by killing the person without giving him any treatment.
A policy that doesn’t balance its decisions doesn’t work, give me a plan, point out the specific projects/crops that wasting the water the most and deal with them, give me a solution not a gun, bullets and an empty promise of heaven, it doesn’t work.

Ehsani,
I’m not bashing Tourism, I’m bashing the idea of putting all my resources and concentrate my effort in an industry that doesn’t grow my children any assets or values an industry that will make me poorer and a beggar.
If you want to ask Syria to get rid of its Agricultural sector and give up its lands for something worthy, ask it to go industrial or something real worth the price you are asking for.
Be Japan not Thailand.

October 29th, 2010, 11:58 am

 

EHSANI2 said:

JAD,

Syria’s number one challenge is to create enough jobs for a fast expanding population. Tourism is a very labor intensive industry.

Did you read about the concept of comparative advantage?

You want Syria to be Japan and not Thailand?

Who doesn’t?

To be Japan, you must excel at manufacturing and production. You must have ample electric capacity. You must invest in R&D. You must offer tax incentives to exporters and offer low rate financing to all manufacturers to help expand and invest. Every industrial nation has used all or a combination of the above.

Your country has none of the above. It should, but right now it does not. Why? Because it has wasted all its resources on the white elephant projects that Elie has talked about and on a bleeding public sector that I have talked about. Whatever is left is gone on expensive subsidies that cost billions a year.

While you put your house in order and put a credible strategy to Japanize Syria, you must do all you can to create enough jobs to meet the 250,000 new seekers a year. Given such a challenge, you cannot be too choosy. As for opting for a strategy that does not grow your “children any assets or values an industry that will make me poorer and a beggar”, I think that what we have done thus far is precisely that. I somehow doubt that promoting Tourism while you Japanize Syria (good luck) will end up making the country any poorer.

October 29th, 2010, 12:23 pm

 

Elie Elhadj said:

JAD,

You said: “you are ready and willing to get rid of the whole sector for a dream in service industry that doesn’t build national wealth”.

Your conclusion is incorrect. Investing in any project should be pursued if justified on a purely rate of return on investment basis. Irrigation and land reclamation projects are no exception.

Elie

October 29th, 2010, 4:40 pm

 

Jad said:

Elie,
“Investing in any project should be pursued if justified on a purely rate of return on investment basis. Irrigation and land reclamation projects are no exception.”
We are on agreement that there is a possibility to compromise and work things out for the agricultural sector without the needs to abandon it altogether for another vague sector, right?
If that is the case then your statement of:
“Syria should focus its agriculture on rain fed lands only, with investments to improve the yield from rain fed lands.” is not fully correct nor clear enough since depending on rain ONLY grows without the existing of policies and technology (only some foreigners touring Syria) will eventually, as I stated before means: “get rid of all the agricultural sector, since if we want to go science and facts, we wont have any rain in the coming 10-50 years range to grow anything and Syria will be a big huge hot desert.
Please remind me why Syria should go this road and choose your plan over finding some solutions and balance all productive sectors instead of concentrating on one?

Ehsani,
‘Syria’s number one challenge is to create enough jobs for a fast expanding population. Tourism is a very labor intensive industry.”
So is Industrial (light/heavy), so is Agriculture so is any new creative thing that Syrians can come with…it doesn’t matter, any industry can be ‘IT’ and we don’t have to go one way or the other we just need to balance our planning and decisions not to come up with an outlandish ideas and run with it all the way even though that we know it doesn’t solve the problem.
Otherwise and if Tourism is the solution of all problems, Egypt and Thailand should be in the list of the most developed country in the world, THEY ARE NOT and will never be, WHY? Because they don’t have the wealth, technology, or the right industry and they didn’t built any base out of tourism to make them developed, they doomed to be a ‘Tourist’ country with a monthly amount of money coming in and out and no extra to progress.
Use the brains of the 22 million Syrians instead of telling them what to do, make them come up with ideas with industry of their own, make them create and advance, then you can Syrianized Japan not the other way around but as long as you are not doing that things will go form bad to worst and nothing can be changes with or without Tourism, Agriculture or Water…
The wealth of Syrians is in their brains, so if their future.

Elie, Ehsani, I don’t believe in the ONE RIGHT PLAN thingy you both are promoting, it never works before and wont work now, nor tomorrow, “Balance” in everything is the GOLDEN RULE I believe in.

October 29th, 2010, 6:06 pm

 

Nour said:

Elie:

I don’t know where you got that Central California is “threatened with disaster.” It is nowhere near an impending disaster. There are water issues, and continuous ways of improving water preservation, which is normal. And the water issues are not only related to agriculture but also due to the high water demand in the highly congested cities of California. The fact is that agriculture continues to be the number one industry in Central California, doing quite well for it, as it rakes in over $17 billion per year from being a prime food source for the country.

Again, I am not saying that focus should be strictly on agriculture, as Syria definitely needs to improve its industrial base. But to abandon agriculture is complete and utter lunacy. Better irrigation and water preservation systems would go really far in improving our agricultural output without threatening our water availability.

October 29th, 2010, 6:13 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

Jad,

Did you read about comparative advantage?

How would you compete with manufacturers in saudi who are offered almost free loans, cheap electricty and the capital that allows them to invest in the latest manufacturing technologies. The same goes for turkish manufacturers. I just dont understand what is wrong with promoting tourism. You need 250,000 jobs a years. You need all the help you can get. If people are willing to fly into your airports, eat at your restaurents, sleep at your hotels all to watch your old ruins and what you want to do is say no this will make us poorer? Ha? Come on. Tourism brings in much needed foreign exchange earnings. This way it acts like exports. I wish i owned 10000 year ruins that i can have people come over to visit and pay me to watch.

October 29th, 2010, 6:26 pm

 

Jad said:

Dear Ehsani,

Sorry, I didn’t read the theory in details so I can’t comment on it as yet.

“I just dont understand what is wrong with promoting tourism.”
Nothing wrong with promoting Tourism and I didn’t write that it is wrong, what I said is wrong is to promote ‘TOURISM’ as the sole and only industry that will work and to tread it off with Agricultural+Industrial industry.

“If people are willing to fly into your airports, eat at your restaurents, sleep at your hotels all to watch your old ruins and what you want to do is say no this will make us poorer?”
Again, I didn’t write that ‘TOURISM’ will make us poorer, I said, that depending only on tourism wont built wealth.
Tourism is like being employed in a company for minimum salary that doesn’t help you save for the future.

“Tourism brings in much needed foreign exchange earnings.” Where is Egypt on the scale comparing to Syria? Syria doesn’t have 1/50th of what Egypt get from Tourism. Egypt is $4900 Syria is $4700, any explanation for that?

October 29th, 2010, 7:30 pm

 

Norman said:

Hey all ,

I got a solution , encourage tourism which will employ many that get salaries and pay taxes , that will bring money from outside the country , Syria will use the money to build a new well managed water system to have good food supply ,

MR President , I agree that a contract law and tort law is needed in Syria nobody can open an office because of the turn key fee that real estate owners or rentals charge to move out and to have more affordable houses , Syria can tax houses and other real estate after the first house and ban transfer of real estate from parents to children without tax , the story now is that people park their money in real estate and not rent them for fear of renters exercising rent control and not leaving when the contract ends , with taxation and contract law owner will rent or sell to compensate for paying taxes and that will free many housing units,

Other ways to decrease the cost of building is to let people import cement and allow for building cement factories by the private sector , cement distribution is now controlled by the civil engineers society , with set aside for the members of cement meters .

October 29th, 2010, 8:15 pm

 

Elie Elhadj said:

JAD,

You said: “We are on agreement that there is a possibility to compromise and work things out for the agricultural sector”.

It is not a question of compromise we are dealing with here. It is a question math.

When you make the economic cost of water extraction and delivery a factor in the cost of production there is no way that irrigation schemes in a country like Syria can win against other types of industry.

Syria’s rate of return on government investment in irrigation schemes between 1988 and 2000 was negative, not even zero!

You said: “Please remind me why Syria should go this road…”

I’ll say this yet again: Because Syria has from rain and aquifers enough water to feed 15 million people only–importing the difference, quietly.

Nour,

Please read “Cadillac Desert” by Marc Eisner.

Elie

October 30th, 2010, 3:08 am

 

douglas martin said:

I’m a old Oklahoma dry farming veteran who sees the irrigation of cotton and grains to be the worst use of water. Secondarily, the plain English remedy for ditch irrigation is Turkish imported drip systems with the investment into pumping stations on the Euphrates to supply the drip system with all its flexible pluming and soil conditioning to counter the alkalinity salts from years of ditch–quick and cheap–irrigation.

October 30th, 2010, 4:43 am

 

Joshua said:

Douglas – “An old Oklahoma dry farmer”? How do you know about Turkish drip systems?

October 30th, 2010, 7:54 am

 

Off the Wall said:

Elie

The Cadillac Desert is an excellent book. It describes much of the follies and political and occasionally-criminal origin of water issues in California, but it does not tell the whole story.

Some of California’s problems are self-made. The resistance to building storage structures has been one of the key thematic topics in CA water politics.

While the total water storage within the Colorado Basin is about 400% of the average annual flow, California’s total storage capacity is only 100% of average annual total. This means that CA is much more susceptible to drought that states relying fully on the Colorado.

California receives water from the Colorado, but a majority of its supply come from Northern California. There are many transfer projects (Federal, State, and Local) which when viewed on a map resemble a great network of water highways.

The bright spot in all of this is a series of innovation at political, structural, technological, and scientific. In general, each district is responsible for managing its own sources and for acquiring new sources to satisfy existing and projected water demands. These plans, which may consist of transfer schemes, conservation, groundwater recharge (storage), water reuse, and more drastic desalination, are then integrated into a statewide water plan. A complex scheme of water rights govern the entire show, and is managed using one of the most complex water management softwares (CALSIM) which is undergoing major update to allow for dynamic consideration of forecasts and for improved optimization.

The state department of water resources (DWR) is powerful, yet it is also very open minded. It works for the benefit of its clients, and while it regulates, it also provides the mechanisms to abide by the regulations. For example, DWR operates a sophisticated network of hydrometeorological stations with the sole aim of estimating evapotranspiration and providing these estimates so that the farmers can connect their irrigation systems to the data in order to optimize both their water use and crop yield. Each station cost about $6000 and software can be designed to estimate crop specific values at the field scale. Large farming communities are beginning to consider installing their own stations to improve the accuracy of the estimates within their local conditions.

The state also provides software (Free of charge), a huge data base (also free of charge), and regularly publishes bulletin and invest hugely in research aiming to improve seasonal climate forecast, amount of water stored in the snow-pack, and assessment of climate change impact. It connects well to the academia in the state, and support research projects, although the current bush-caused, obama-mismanaged economic disaster has reduced such investment in research, but not in network maintenance and expansion.

Water districts (urban and irrigation) are also heavily involved in assessing and using modern technologies and novel approaches. This off course can sometime be stupid and allows some snake-oil salesmen to make an extra buck (cloud seeding), but overall, they are responsible and exercise their power both directly and through court.

Perhaps there is no place where the Energy-Water Crux is as evident as in California. The energy cost of moving all of this water is a sizable part of the state’s energy consumption. Couple that with extreme resistance to building new energy plants (clean-coal or nuclear), one can see that in the end, California will be facing a few hard decisions to make. But I am confident that they will arrive at appropriate balance, mainly because water resources planning in the state now goes bottom up, not the other way around. No one in the state has the ability or power to envision grandiose crazy plans. Real decisions are largely made where they belong, at the local level, thus improving adaptation and adherence to and enforcement of conservation measures.

Once in a while, the state may declare water emergency, which activates master plans that are designed at local and state levels. California is not in as dire situation as Syria, no way close to that. Off course it can be better, and the next struggle would be between Urban and Agricultural Demands, but at the rate of urbanization, much of the central valley agriculture will probably disappear under the huge mega-mega city that will connect San Francisco to Los Angeles in the next 100 years, rather unfortunately.

October 30th, 2010, 5:29 am

 

Elie Elhadj said:

OTW,

Thank you for the education on California’s water condition. I must admit that my knowledge of that part of the world is rather elementary. Having said that, Cadillac Desert is an excellent beautifully written documentary on what you correctly describe as the “follies and political and occasionally-criminal origin of water issues in California” and the American West, I might add.

I often quote Reisner’s words: “Water flows uphill towards money”. adding two more words: “and power”.

Your knowledge on the subject is impressive. Your wisdom, clarity, and objectivity is needed to guide Syria’s planners. May they listen!

Thanks again

Elie

October 30th, 2010, 6:10 am

 

Jad said:

Elie,
You are not analyzing the issue the way it should be, you keep coming back to me as if I’m telling you YES to the government wrong and destructive irrigation policy of Cotton, and you keep repeating yourself without acknowledging facts, you stuck in one part of the issue and forget the rest, which I find a bit unusual for you as a researcher who his job is to look at all aspects of the problem at hand, not only one.
In your decision/judgement of punishing the government for their unforgettable mistakes in agricultural you are asking private farmers who are using the efficient watering system and who are producing good quality grows to vanish as well even though they have a successful business and they bring money.
That is the flaw in your argument, it doesn’t differentiate or clarify what you are asking for there is no plan to be negotiated with you, you just want to get rid of agriculture without any solution for any if the problem out there.

October 30th, 2010, 10:38 am

 

Georges Stanechy said:

Je suis surpris qu’on puisse proposer le tourisme comme axe “principal”, ou “potion magique”, du développement…

C’est dissimuler les ravages sur une économie et sa structure sociale : flambée de la spéculation immobilière, multiplication des emplois “sous-payés” et “sous”-qualifiés” (diplômés(ées) de l’enseignement supérieur employés comme serveurs ou femmes de chambre, etc.),développement de la prostitution et des addictions (drogues et alcoolisme)liés au tourisme sexuel, accélération des migrations de population des campagnes vers les villes, etc.

Avant de transformer son pays en Disneyland touristique, il convient, en premier lieu, d’avoir une solide agriculture orientée vers l’autosuffisance alimentaire de la population.

Et, non pas une agriculture de grandes exploitations destinées aux produits d’exportation pour le bénéfice exclusif de richissimes propriétaires ou dignitaires…

C’est avec des agriculteurs prospères, bien intégrés dans leur région, au pouvoir d’achat sécurisé, qu’on fonde les économies prospères. Contribuant à créer les petites et moyennes entreprises indispensables à l’avenir d’un pays.

October 30th, 2010, 11:12 am

 

majedkhaldoon said:

Thank you Douglas Martin.
drip irrigation is the future for agriculture irrigation, it is ideal for dry country farming,and save a lot of water, it helps produce early crop, larger quantity,better quality,persistant results year after year,and allow even distribution of nutrients, the cost by ha is $2500 to start, then 150 dollar per ha for maintenance annually,this include labor,repair fertilizers,pesticides and water cost, and if used for olive it will produce $3500 per ha.
A syrian engineer,Abdulrahman Ghaibeh,along with Regeb Regeb, who is the head of united nation agriculture and irrigation office in London,worked on this subject,and published their reports.
Agriculture and irrigation is not going to go away in Syria,no one is against tourism,or industrialization,but as Jad said,we should never abandone the farmers,to replace farming with tourism,will endanger the national security of Syria.

October 30th, 2010, 1:57 pm

 

Majhool said:

This is an excellent debate. Thanks to Jad, OTW, Souri and others for their in-depth contributions. I enjoyed them tremendously.

It is so sad, that the government does not tap into the experience and insight of such patriotic expatriates and many others like them.

At the end of the day it’s all about human capital, great visions can simply fail because of poor management.

When will governmental management positions in Syria be given based on merits and not on loyalty?

I can think of many well-to-do professional syrians that would gladly accept responsibilities in the public domain when they are close to retirement age.

something is so broken in the political system in syria that sidelines the good will of syrians.

we can talk rational all we want, but the system is not.

October 30th, 2010, 1:58 pm

 

Roland said:

It would be a big mistake for Syria to rely on comparative advantage in setting its policies.

Food security is important in order to protect Syria’s sovereignty against outside power interference.

Moreover, food security is probably going to become more and more important worldwide in the coming years. It is simply irrational to assume that the sort of global abundance in traded food which characterized the late 20th cent. will continue indefinitely.

Obviously, agricultural reforms may be necessary. As long as farmers’ incomes are guaranteed, and as long as agricultural communities are consulted about changes, their cooperation will be obtenable.

A strong agricultural lobby is no more objectionable than any other kind of lobby. Consider for instance the pernicious influence of the financial sector lobby–and they don’t even feed people.

October 30th, 2010, 4:04 pm

 

Ghat Al Bird said:

MAJHOOL said:

“When will governmental management positions in Syria be given based on merits and not on loyalty?”

You must be kidding. Why Should Syria be any different than all the Governments in the World? And more importantly textbook pontifications and/or applying the medium of “if it works in the Arizona desert it must work in every desert”, are the bookworms work.

A few years ago I came across a World Bank book report prepared by eocnomsts and other development experts that claimed Libya was doomed to a life of misery. The report’s publication date was six months after several oil fields were discovered in Libya thereby putting the lie to what the World Bank experts claimed was Libya’s bleak future.

Just my 2 cents worth. Have to admit though as mentioned making the desert [stated by EE] bloom if that is what it takes then Syria better get some Syrians elected to office in the US and Britain thereby getting the bucks to make the desert bloom.

October 30th, 2010, 4:15 pm

 

Majhool said:

Ghat,

I am not sure if understood me correctly. Let me explain through an example: I happen to know a dean of a syrian public college, aside from having a questionable PhD from an eastern european university, his other creditials that got him the job were a nomination from the security services and the Baath Party, as well as being related to a bedouin/tribal chieftain.

You can imagine the ripple effects of such an appointment.

October 30th, 2010, 4:34 pm

 

Ghat Al Bird said:

My socalled 2 cents worth Majhool were to the point that all politicians in power tend to prefer loyalty rather than merit.

I think your suggestion as you stated “I can think of many well-to-do professional syrians that would gladly accept responsibilities in the public domain when they are close to retirement age.” is well founded and well intentioned.

It may be that if the interest is there a formal listing of available expetise of ex-patriate Syrians willing to proffer their knowledge to the appropriate Syrian ministries for their consideration. Just a thought.

October 30th, 2010, 6:44 pm

 

Majhool said:

Ghat,

I think the listing is a great idea, Alex and I, toyed with a similar idea long time ago. While, i agree that top political posts require loyalty, middle management should not.

Yet again, we are thinking in a rational way. Syria’s regime, with its narrow legitimacy does not function in a rational way.

October 30th, 2010, 7:00 pm

 

majedkhaldoon said:

The Saudi invitation to the Iraqi leaders to meet in Ryad is a very good step.
Syria should have some paticipation,at the end of the meeting.

October 30th, 2010, 8:52 pm

 

Norman said:

Majid,

The only thing that KSA can provide is money and because Iraq does not need money KSA has no role in Iraq , on the other hand Syria has more than 1 million Iraqi and in dire need to send them home so stable Iraq is in Syria’s interest while KSA built a fence to prevent Iraqis from seeking refuge and continue to send Al Qaeda to Iraq, Syria and Iran should have a meeting in Syria for all parties and settle the dispute with Syria banning Saudis from coming to Syria who are of age that can participate to destabilize Iraq , In return a unity government in Iraq with AL Maliki Prime mister for 2 years and Allawi prime minster for 2 years , Iraq will have good relation with Turkey , Iran and Syria , these are the countries that are needed to stable Iraq, and have an interest in that .

October 30th, 2010, 9:19 pm

 

Alex said:

Ghat, Majhool,

The idea is not dead. Hopefully it is doable. working on a variation of it.

Majedkhaldoon,

I agree with Norman. Saudi Arabia hosting the Iraqis after the Kingdom stayed away from any responsibility in helping the Iraqis in the psst few years, does not make sense.

The Saudis like sponsoring these events/announcements … just like few years ago when the Saudis announced hosting a Hamas / PLO reconciliation talks while everything was already agreed upon in Damascus the week before.

October 30th, 2010, 11:59 pm

 

Alex said:

Long but worth watching … Tea Party candidates,

October 31st, 2010, 12:01 am

 

OFF THE WALL said:

Majhool and Alex
The Arab League Educational Cultural and Scientific Organization (ALECSO), which attempts to mirror UNESCO is currently brainstorming regarding the initiation of a project similar in principal to the one you are proposing. The project aims to re-connect Arab expats with Arab countries in need of technical assistance through series of workshops, training courses, and specialized lectures. The idea has some merit in the sense that it will attempt to avoids political sensitivities by sending a Suadi expert to Syria, a Syrian Expert to Algeria, and an Algerian expert to Lebanon. At this stage, water and natural resource management seem to bu very high on the priority list. This is important since most of the expat experts can be viewed as politically neutral in countries other than theirs and they can be considered none-threatening.

Ghat
Since you brought up Arizona’s Desert. Arizona suffered major decline in ground water aquifers over a century. I have photos that show land subsidence on the order of 10 to 15 meters due to excessive ground water pumping (near eloy). In 1948, the state enacted a concept of critical groundwater zones, but that did not work since it was a toothless law and did not impose restriction on pumping within the zone. In the late 1970s and early 1980, when negotiations with the US department of the interior started regarding the Central Arizona Project (bringing Colorado River water to the state), the then secretary of the Interior of the US Cecil Andrus informed Arizona that without enacting a real ground water protection, the state will not receive a drop of the Colorado water. It took the diplomatic skills, and much political capital of the state’s Governor (one of the few sane governors the state ever knew), Bruce Babbit, and days of 18 hours negotiation for the state to finally come up with its landmark legislation, later known as the Ground Water Protection Act. The act designates 4 Active Management Areas within the state including Phoenix and Tucson where no new irrigation projects can be established, and where developers must demonstrate that they have acquired water rights sufficient to provide water for the said development. Hardest hit by the new law was Agriculture, since no new irrigation projects could be initiated and existing farmers were restricted to an amount not exceeding the largest acreage they farmed during the five years proceeding the law. All ground water wells were to be monitored and farmers were given options to retire their grandfathered water rights by selling the land to water districts, who would then acquire the water rights associated with the land. Furthermore, pumping amount from each aquifer was restricted to what was then called safe yield (being revised now).

Cities, however, reacted differently. Phoenix, with access the waters from the Salt River Project, continued to act as an oasis in the desert with green lawns. Tucson, on the other hand, became much more cognizant of its water limitation, hence the start of a new art (gravel yards) resulting in some of the most beautiful landscaping designs I have seen where low water consumption trees, mixed with cacti and layers of native shrubs now adorn countless back and front yard, and where strict conservation measures have been enacted including using only recycled water to water golf courses (which bring much of the city’s income) and resorts.

The reason I bring this story is to highlight and approach that must be used if Euphrates water is ever to be sent to Damascus or elsewhere. Strict controls of illegal ground water wells must be enacted and enforced. Similarly, legal wells, must be reviewed and restricted. But the real problem is not only the (Barada-Awaj) basin, as much as it is in the Khabour-Tigris basin where our of the total 4.566 Billion Cubic Meters demand, Agricultural demand is 4.3 Billions, with negative balance in the basin reaching 1.78 billion cubic meters (based on average values) the entirety of which comes from groundwater wells. These numbers were crying of impending disaster for years now since they were already known to the Ministry of Irrigation (these are the ministry’s estimates), and they have indicated dangerous reliance on ground water that resulted in the aquifer, the last resort in drought years, being unavailable when the drought hit. Syria now faces a catastrophe of nearly 1 million internal refugees, notwithstanding destruction of whole communities because of mismanagement, greed, and absent oversight (we all know how and why).

October 31st, 2010, 1:44 am

 

Norman said:

OTW,

Tell me gain why Syria should not use deep wells that can be pumped and used for irrigation , if we can use oil why can’t we use water to make something only needs hard work from farmers with little capital,

My brother the civil Engineer who graduated from Damascus university told that the problem in Damascus does not comes from lack of water but from leakage from old pipes ,that are very old ,of about 30% , they tried to have new system but cost was prohibited , a canal or better probably a pipe line like in oil that transfer water from the Euphrates to Damascus and in the future to the Tiberius lake if peace materialize and with the help of Turkey by increasing the flow of water with stations along the way to irrigate the land on both sides of the pipe , doing that will increase Agriculture in Syria and supply water to Damascus ,

October 31st, 2010, 8:55 am

 

Ghat Al Bird said:

OFF THE WALL made some good suggestions under # 53.

The only personal advice I would add is that the ex-patriate “consultant/expert” must approach both the individual and the project/isssue as a doctor approaches a patient. And that is before jumping into recommendations determine exactly from the farmers, [ in the case of water irrigation] as well as the agri ministrry person responsible individuall what does he/she think the major problems are.

In short do not dictate from a distance. If I was knowledgeable about Syria as you all are I would volunteer.

October 31st, 2010, 10:45 am

 

5 dancing shlomos said:

from angry arab, 11/1:

Disney Suq

A source who does not want to be identified sent me this: “Your recent post (“damascus”) reminded me of what one of my colleagues shared with me while we were researching Syria in 2008-9. His project dealt with urban history and he got to know a lot of the folks at GTZ, the German technical assistance organization that, as I understand it, is facilitating most of the “renewal” projects in the old city. Apparently he came across some plans that weren’t meant to be made public or seen by anyone other than the higher-ups at GTZ and the Ministry of Cultural which essentially indicated that approval had been granted for more than SIXTY new hotels/guesthouses in the Old City and in excess of ONE HUNDRED more restaurants, totals ON TOP of the existing development that has been going on over the last five years of so. Basically, this means that the Old City is being turned into an orientalist Disney Land for all the new tourists you’re seeing while in Syria. Much of this development is/will occur in the old homes owned by (the remaining) Jewish and some Christian families or people without the right kind of wasta to keep the pressure off them to sell. Please omit my name if you chose to reference this on you blog.”

November 1st, 2010, 1:19 pm

 

douglas martin said:

Josh, I have used an Israeli designed drip system in my landscaping and gardening for twenty years–long lasting stuff under the Texas sun. I learned about Turkish systems from a Israeli hydrologist on sabbatical at the University of Texas who knew about Israeli selling or sharing their drip expertise during the “warm” times of diplomacy.

November 1st, 2010, 2:18 pm