Syrian farmers in the midst of drought and conflict: the causes, patterns, and aftermath of land abandonment and migration

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The prevailing narrative on the Syrian Civil War attributes it to climate-induced migration resulting from a severe drought, which serves as a central link connecting climate change with the 2011 protests. However, limited research has involved interviews with Syrians, with most studies focusing on drought's meteorological aspects and estimated migrant numbers. Our interdisciplinary study we conduct surveys with 82 former Syrian farmers in Turkey, carry out 16 in-depth interviews, and analyse satellite images to explore land use activities. Our objective is to answer three questions: (1) How can we distinguish between 'forced displacement' and 'migration as an adaptive response' during the 2007–2009 drought in Syria and the subsequent civil war? (2) How do drought, land abandonment, and migration interact in Syria since 2006? (3) How can we enhance understanding of 'trapped' individuals, considering mobility restrictions in host countries rather than solely immobility in the country of origin? Our findings are threefold: firstly, Syrian farmers employed adaptive measures against drought before the war; secondly, land abandonment during the drought was less extensive than portrayed in literature linking climate, migration, and conflict; and finally, we emphasize that refugees may feel trapped even after leaving their homes.

Original languageEnglish
JournalClimate and Development
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2023 Jul 1

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Human Geography
  • International Migration and Ethnic Relations
  • Climate Research

Free keywords

  • drought
  • armed conflict
  • migration
  • land abandonment
  • climate adaptation
  • trapped population
  • Syria
  • Turkey

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