ISTANBUL: Besides his flowers in Istanbul, Ahmed Al Shehabi also owns pistachio trees in Aleppo, 1,000km away in Northern Syria.
But his trees are dying. His fields, once abundant, are barren. Unfortunately, that is not all he has left behind. His mother, brother, nephews and nieces all remain in Syria too.
Two years ago, Ahmed was forced to seek work elsewhere, when fighting broke out in his homeland. “Our large piece of land did not provide us the amount of grapes and wheat that we used to have every month and sell to the government. We waited three months without rain,” said Ahmed.
Across Syria, farmers are facing a similar crisis. According to researchers from the National Academy of Sciences, the extreme drought between 2006 and 2009 stemmed from climate change. They have also suggested the same drought was one of the main reasons behind the conflict in Syria.
In their previous study, the group claimed a 1 per cent rise in temperature leads to a 4.5 per cent increase in conflicts. Crop failures, they believe, have forced around 1.5 million people to migrate from rural to urban areas. The statistics was a result of mean data from 18 climate models and on conflicts in Africa and Middle East.
“Social conflicts are triggered by drought, and drought is directly linked with climate change,” said Umit Sahin, a climate change expert from the Istanbul Policy Center of Sabanci University. “If the country’s economy is linked with agricultural production, drought can be the number one reason for social and economic conflicts. This is what happened in Syria”.
Ahmed’s only dream is to return to his family in Aleppo and sit in the shade of his pistachio trees. However, as long as the war continues, he knows he must contend with watering his plants in Istanbul alone.