| ||Syria has a surface area of 185 000 km2 for almost 20 million inhabitants and it has a Mediterranean climate. Agriculture accounts for almost 30% of the GDP and employs a third of the active population. In the 1970s, to make the nomadic population more sedentary, the state made plots of land available to the Bedouins for them to farm cotton. It is less profitable than intensive fruit and vegetable farming but cotton is Syria's second largest export. This makes the country the ninth largest exporter of this fibre. Here, it is women who harvest the cotton. They protect themselves from the sun and cotton dust (a source of allergies) with scarves. Intensive cotton farming was developed without controlling soil salinity. At the end of the 20th century, almost 40% of the country's arable land was too salty for agriculture and the salinity of thousands of hectares increased every year. Today, a biosaline agricultural programme that ensures the controlled mixing of underground salty water and the Euphrates' freshwater has been set up to increase the cultivation of wheat, barley, eucalyptus, acacias and various forage species. These crops chosen for their dietary and forage properties stabilise soil and give it enough organic matter to improve production. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 77 million hectares of soil are affected by salinity caused by man.
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