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To earn a living, Syrians risk lives to collect truffles

HAMA – In the rugged expanses of the Syrian desert, where the scars of war still linger, a risky but profitable venture emerged several years ago amid the struggle of impoverished Syrians: truffle hunting in fields full of undetected landmines.

Ahmed Al Faraj, a greengrocer, described the truffle as a natural bounty that germinates without cultivation and is prized for its seasonal availability and exceptional taste.

Iklan

Iklan

The truffles emerge from the desert soil as a result of thunder and lightning, with the harvest season running from February to March and extending into October and November, Al Faraj explains.

For locals, the appeal of truffles lies not only in their taste, but also in their economic value.

This year, truffle prices have tripled compared to a year earlier, with the cheapest variety starting at 100,000 Syrian pounds for 1 kg (about 13 US dollars).

However, the region where these expensive ingredients grow is fraught with dangers.

In the rural area of ​​the Salamiyah region in Syria’s central Hama province, people lose their lives every truffle harvest season. These individuals died as a result of undetected landmine explosions or being shot by remnants of ultra-radical groups such as the Islamic State (IS) in the desert region.

Still, the frequent fatalities have not dampened locals’ enthusiasm for picking the prized delicacies.

Abdullah Hameed Al-Nuaiman, a 54-year-old farmer from Salamiyah, emphasized the importance of truffle hunting for Syrians as a way to earn a living. Despite the risks of encountering landmines or being kidnapped, Al-Nuaiman and his companions brave the desert, enduring great distances and dangerous conditions in their search for truffles.

“We are scared,” Al-Nuaiman admitted, recounting the arduous journey that required daily round trips of up to 250km to reach specific destinations in search of these coveted treasures.

Mohammed Daya Al-Mohammed, another farmer from Salamiyah, echoes Al-Nuaiman’s sentiments, highlighting the desperation that drives many to risk their lives for financial gain. “Money is scarce,” he lamented, “and we have reached a very difficult time when everything is expensive.”

“When I have work, I don’t go out to collect wild plants, especially at this time,” he told Xinhua.

In March, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that 80 civilians died as a result of hidden landmines in Syria, most during truffle hunting expeditions.

Christelle Loupforest, head of the UN Mine Action Service in Geneva, recently said that landmines, remnants of explosive conflict and improvised explosive devices were causing fatalities and injuries, especially in regions affected by armed conflict, with Syria hardest hit.

“Syria is a country that I would put at the top of the list because when I look at the number of victims, there is still a huge number of victims,” she said. -XINHUA