Wheat and Survival in Besieged Ghouta

04 August 2015

“Wheat is our survival,” a phrase that condenses all the pain of those besieged in Ghouta, and the special relationship Syrians have with wheat; the essence of life to many. The residents of Ghouta, take the time between two airstrikes to leave the rubble of their houses and plough their fields of wheat, just like their ancestors did. The fields of wheat surrounding the city, become the only resistance the locals can put up against a policy of “hunger or submission”, and thus they protect them with their lives.

The conditions of war, and the scorched earth strategies of the Syrian regime meant that the residents needed to come up with novel ways to plant and harvest wheat while protecting the fields from intentional bombardment by regime forces. The local council of Darayya decided to manage the wheat harvests in most of the lands surrounding the town, so that they could coordinate the effort between the civilian population and the local Free Syrian Army brigades in the town. Many of the residents also chose to work jointly on the planting and harvesting due to lack of resources and necessary fuel supplies.

The wheat season starts in the fall, when farmers begin ploughing the land and preparing it for the seeds. This work which before the uprising was done with the help of tractors and heavy machinery has reverted to the more traditional manual ways due to the destruction in the area. The planted fields need protection and supervision day and night, so that when bombing-related fires emerge, they could be extinguished quickly before ruining the whole harvest.

The most interesting part of the work is that after the harvest, the local council gathers the whole harvest and distributes it equally among the residents. The small harvests have thus far enabled the region to survive a suffocating blockade, hence their feeling that “wheat is our survival.”


This work is under a Creative Commons license. Attribution: Non commercial - ShareAlike 4.0. International license

Illustation by Dima Nechawi Graphic Design by Hesham Asaad