“For the second year in a row, we are facing drought,” the 85-year-old farmer told AFP in front of his arid field in a region that was once called the country’s breadbasket.

“This year’s harvest is not even enough to secure our own supply of bread. Our losses are in the millions,” he laments.

With climate change, droughts and forest fires are becoming more frequent around the world, and Syria — hit by a civil war for more than a decade — is experiencing increasingly dry and hot years.

The once fertile Northeast region is particularly affected.

In the village of Oum Hajrah located 40 kilometers northeast of the city of Hassaké, Mr. Fatimi contemplates his field where cattle now graze.

He remembers a time when trucks lined up to transport sacks of wheat. Today, sheep occupy his fields.

“We didn’t harvest a single grain of wheat,” he says. “When I see the sheep grazing in these fields, I feel like the crops are wasted.”

– Climate change –

Today the temperature in northeastern Syria has risen by around one degree Celsius for the past 100 years, and rainfall has dropped by around 18 mm per month per century, according to a report by the NGO iMMAP published in april.

Temperatures are expected to be at least two degrees Celsius higher by 2050, while rainfall is expected to decrease by 11% over the next three decades, the NGO says in this report on the impact of climate change on wheat production in northeast Syria.

Another farmer in the area, Salmane Mohammad Barko, has also turned his fields into pasture land, but this does not even compensate for the cost of sowing them.

“Farmers face huge challenges: climate change, drought, low production, less rainfall,” he said.

And local authorities are struggling to support an agricultural sector also affected by high fuel, seed and fertilizer prices.

The semi-autonomous Kurdish administration, which controls the area, has helped irrigate land and offered farmers subsidized seeds and fuel, says local agriculture official Leila Mohammed.

“Climatic conditions have affected the production and quality” of wheat crops, she explains, adding that the decline in production is also due to an exodus of farmers during the war years.

In addition to water shortages, pro-Turkish groups are building dykes blocking the waters of the Khabour River, which originates in Turkey and runs through much of northeast Syria, passing through the Al-Hasakah region, controlled by the Kurds, according to the Dutch NGO PAX.

– “Low season” –

For Moussa Mohammed, the Kurdish administration is doing too little. The authorities buy wheat from farmers at 2,200 Syrian pounds (about 0.4 euros) per kilo.

“This price does not compensate for our expenses, it should have been set at at least three thousand pounds,” said the 55-year-old farmer.

Wheat production in Syria averaged 4.1 million tonnes a year before the war started in 2011.

Quantities were sufficient to meet local demand, but the country has since turned to imports, particularly from Russia.

The disruption of export flows following the invasion of Ukraine and international sanctions against Moscow are raising fears of famine in a country where nearly 60% of the population today suffers from food insecurity.

“Farmers are completely dependent on seasonal harvests and this year the season is weak due to high prices and climate change,” said Mohammed.