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In 2015, Bridging Peoples won a research grant from the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), to conduct research in partnership with Turkey-based Trust Consultancy and Development on the impact of aid provision on local economies in northern Syria. Fieldwork was conducted in the cities of Darkoush and Salquin in Idleb.

The research objective was to better understand the impact of different types of aid from the local perspective, to support programming options for the future.

To separate the impact of aid provision from other major changes that had occurred during the conflict, we took a retrospective quantitative survey of the local economy as experienced by people living Darkoush and Salquin before the conflict in 2011, and during the time of fieldwork (late 2015). Patterns were then analysed, and further information gathered through focus group discussions and interviews with various community members and aid workers.

To help with research uptake, our final step was a workshop with representatives from different NGOs working in the region, to discuss what the research results meant for their work on the ground.


What happens to local economies when mainstream aid delivery approach of providing food baskets or conditional vouchers is implemented for years on end? In northern Syria, what we found was:

  • a very ‘top-down’ approach to aid provision resulting in many missed opportunities, and a general failure to support existing capacities and efforts of community members;
  • increasing levels of local economic dependency, with many local farmers and market vendors unable to compete against the ‘free’ food that was being provided, and then re-sold on the market;
  • extraordinary resilience amongst community members, with a proliferation of small and micro-business activity as community members turned to self-employment in order to survive the war.

Our recommendation: that aid providers should consider how small and micro-businesses can be supported along the entire value chain, how their resilience can be supported and built to survive the conflict.


Working paper ENGLISH

Policy brief ENGLISH