MALIKA ABDELALI-MARTINI, ADEN AW-HASSAN
International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), Natural Resource Management Program (NRMP), Syria
Local institutions of dairy products play an important role in providing services to the rural poor, such as marketing, input supply, credit and safety nets against unexpected shortfalls due to drought or crop and livestock losses. Hence they play a critical role in the livelihoods of the rural poor. However, the benefits of participating in local institutional arrangements may be uneven and the poor may be disadvantaged because of their weak negotiating position and vulnerability. This study covers 44 villages in Khanasser valley, a dry marginal area located in northwest Syria, where sheep production is a dominant source of livelihoods. The study describes local institutional arrangements in relation to the dairy sheep system and the embedded social capital. Using qualitative and quantitative methods, the study analyses the terms of arrangements between traders and dairy sheep producers in milk collection, processing and marketing. The distributional effects of these arrangements and the factors influencing the poor's access to these institutions are analysed. The results show that important services are provided to the poor particularly in the absence of infrastructure and access to markets. It was found that different communities use different strategies to process and market dairy sheep products with associated benefits. The internal and external factors that determine farmers' choices of these different strategies are analysed. Since sheep production activities are highly gender specific, the impact of these different strategies on women's well-being is examined. This provides insights into the feasibility of gender-specific technological improvements in the dairy sheep sector. The study provides recommendations for technological and development options to improve the dairy sheep production system in similar marginal dry areas.
Keywords: Arrangements, dairy processing, gender, local institutions, milk production, social capital