The opposition Agriculture Directorate in Idlib Province launched a vaccination campaign earlier this month to protect livestock against illnesses like foot-and-mouth disease, and stop a noticeable decline in the number of farm animals as compared to prewar levels.
The vaccination campaign depends on cooling systems powered by clean energy, because the regime cut off electricity from Idlib more than a year ago. Diesel-powered generators are expensive to run and have a negative impact on the environment.
Before the war, Idlib province was home to 850,000 sheep, 190,000 goats, and 59,000 cows. Now, there are 650,000 sheep, 180,000 goats, and 42,000 cows, according to Dr. Khalid al-Hassan, head of the Agriculture Directorate in Idlib Province.
The decline in livestock is due to wartime conditions including a lack of vaccines and reasonably-priced fodder, said Dr. al-Hassan.
The current vaccination campaign “will encompass all livestock in Idlib province, including cattle and poultry, with no exceptions,” Dr. al-Hassan told the Syrian Voice.
“It will take place in several stages, because each disease has a specific time it should be vaccinated against.”
The campaign is currently focused on foot-and-mouth disease, a virus especially dangerous for newborn livestock.
“We can protect livestock from this disease in the future with these vaccinations, especially sheep, goats and cows,” said Dr. Ahmed Sheikh Mohammed, head of the vaccination campaign in Idlib.
Foot-and-mouth disease is a particular concern because shepherds can only detect it after about six months have passed, according to Dr. Ahmed.
Campaign organizers prioritized fighting foot-and-mouth because it has already spread in a number of areas in Idlib province, including Khan Sheikhoun and surrounding villages in the southern countryside, and the al-Rauj plain in the western countryside. Sheep coming from the northern Aleppo, and eastern Hama countrysides are most affected, said Dr. Ahmed.
Despite Idlib’s self-sufficiency in livestock and dairy products, meat and dairy are expensive because fodder and vaccinations are expensive, and hard to procure from trusted sources. Additionally, smugglers move flocks to regime-controlled areas or Turkey.
The recent vaccination campaign relied on refrigeration powered by clean energy, said Dr. Ahmed.
“The cooling system works on solar power…that was done in cooperation with the Rebuilding Fund, which is a partner in the program,” he said.
“Clean energy is considered the best alternative to electric generators that use diesel and gas, which are expensive because the government cut off electricity to Idlib over a year ago.”
Livestock and crops provide residents in opposition-held areas with some measure of food security, especially in Idlib. Preserving these critical food sources means preserving the lives of civilians struggling to make it through the war.