This research seeks to investigate the impact and externalities of social capital in sixteen villages in El Bab district in Aleppo, Syria. El Bab villages are located in the North Eastern region, which has the largest agricultural sector in Syria, and the highest level of rural poverty. It is part of a region that faces various challenges, primarily due to the occurrence of droughts, depletion of natural resources, and changing state policies. Consequently rural populations developed their own coping strategies through heavily relying on the informal sector to access resources which are otherwise inaccessible through formal channels. This research hence attempts to provide answers for the following questions: What are the livelihoods strategies of rural populations in Al-Bab village? What is the role of local institutions and social networks, and to what extent do they facilitate access to resources? What is the role of trust in facilitating reciprocal transactions in each villager's network? Can social capital contribute to improving household income? Toward this end, the research bases its line of enquiry on four main themes which are: livelihood strategies of villagers, the impact of local level institutions and social networks on rural livelihoods, the role of trust and norms in facilitating access to resources and restraining opportunism, and common forms of cooperative and reciprocal activities prevalent among El Bab villagers. Through administering semi-structured interview questions to 62 of El Bab villagers, The research findings indicate that informal institutions are the main channels for securing farmers needs for credit and financial loans needed to buy feed and input for the agricultural production process as well as household expenses. Trust plays a major role in facilitating informal credit transactions and instigating cooperative relations between villagers. However, social capital through the several indicators used in the study was found to have no impact on income level partly due to the informal market's credit ceilings and the very high interest rates charged. The research concludes that the existing forms of social capital are a coping strategy that is not sustainable on the long run, due to the occurrence of climatic shocks that affect whole communities, as well as the endless cycle of debts for villagers due to relying primarily on the informal market for input and credit. The research calls for investing on existing social capital through building cross cutting ties and creating links with external networks such as the government, civil society and NGOs that can contribute towards offering more sustainable solutions, and collectivizing efforts of local communities for more efficient management of resources.


School of Humanities and Social Sciences

Degree Name

El Mahdi, Rabab

First Advisor

El Mahdi, Rabab

Committee Member 1

Soliman, Samer

Committee Member 2

El Sayyed, Mustapha

Document Type



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