July 12, 2018

Many of us are familiar with the conflict in Syria: we have seen photos of buildings leveled by bombs and refugees displaced by violence. Pro-democracy protests in 2011 escalated quickly into a civil war within a year, when rebel brigades formed to fight government forces. By June 2015, over  250,000 people had been killed in the conflict. As of July 2018, over  5.6 million Syrians have fled due to the civil war.

The conflict in Syria has devastated its natural resources. Syria is a semi-arid area, and its scarce water sources are becoming more and more polluted by damage, lack of maintenance to infrastructure and poor sanitation as the conflict continues. Water is often used as a weapon: in Aleppo, pumps and electricity stations that fuel the water are controlled by opposing parties, and  the water supply is often deliberately turned off as a war tactic.

This water pollution not only impacts the current health of Syrians, but also their agricultural future. As is the case for most countries, the largest water consuming sector in Syria is agriculture, which uses 87% of Syrian water reserves.  Before the conflict began, the agriculture sector provided jobs for half of the population. Now,  55 to 85% of their crops suffer “severe” moisture stress and food production has dropped 40%, resulting in a loss of over  $16 billion USD.

Through  Kernel, we are visualizing the effects of these global social conflicts from space:

Raster image of Syria from  Kernel

TellusLabs’ Crop Health Index (CHI) shows that the health of Syria’s wheat crop is low. July 1st’s CHI of .087 was the lowest in over 6 years and 7% below  the average of 0.094. The Kernel chart above shows that the health of the crop has declined over the past month.

The drop in crop supply has led to a dramatic increase in food prices; as a result, over half of the Syrian population cannot meet their daily food needs. As the civil war in Syria continues to devastate the daily lives of millions of Syrians, it also endangers their future. It’s another tragic example of inextricable relationship between food supply and geopolitical events.

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