Last month, 237 Syrian agricultural students were thrilled to receive their well-deserved diploma.  The students participated in the Institute of Agriculture Technology programme in the Governorate or Dara’a, Syria; an initiative of International Agriculture Cooperation Office (IACO) and SPARK. The graduation acknowledged the importance of education in times of war.

“the pen is the deterrent weapon against the escalating extremism among Syrian youth” – Dr. Abdulsam Haj Hamed, International Agriculture Cooperation Office

 
Why Syria Needs Farmers

The Institute of Agriculture Technology began in 2015 and offers courses in plant production and protection, crop management and livestock production. The courses were specifically aimed at young Syrians because it is crucial that this type of knowledge is maintained and a skilled workforce remains due to enduring food insecurity in the region.

Additionally, by offering young people an education, the chances of radicalisation or extremism are reduced. Director of the International Agriculture Cooperation Office, Dr. Abdulsam Haj Hamed, poetically noted: “the pen is the deterrent weapon against the escalating extremism among Syrian youth”.


Time to Celebrate

The 237 ambitious students were the first to graduate from the institute in Dara’a and the atmosphere was full of gratitude and hope from teachers, donors and students alike. Dr Ahmed Qubaty, a teacher at the institute, said: “Without the Institute of Agriculture Technology it would have been almost impossible for us to educate in these ‘regime’ areas”.

The young farmer’s dreams for a more prosperous Syrian future had also cultivated excitement in locally and nationally. Syrian Interim Prime Minister, Ghassan Hitto, signed the student’s diplomas and a well known TV station came down to cover the milestone occasion.


What does the future hold?

Graduation is just the beginning for these young people. Throughout 2017, the students will receive training courses in agro-production, food processing and project management, in order to implement all four components of the value chain. After graduating a one-year diploma, the students will receive resources, including access to finance to begin farming. Those starting up food processing SME’s will be supported by local partners. Finally, student’s marketing skills will be developed to help them access new opportunities for their businesses.

The ambition of this programme is to create an educational safe zone where students can improve their skills and educators can counter radicalisation and extremism.