Widely recognized as the poorest country in the region, life in Yemen became significantly more difficult when conflict broke out in 2015. Production decreased, costs soared, and many lost their jobs or sources of livelihood. Currently, 80 per cent of the population lives below the poverty level.
Less visible, is the effect this has had on emotional health. Many people feel discouraged, unable to achieve the dreams and goals they had set for themselves, or even provide for their families.
Mohammed Salem Al Dalak, a young man from Lawdar District in Abyan Governorate, had dreamed of becoming a successful businessman. Before the conflict began, he had been a banana retailer, providing for a family with 12 dependents. But violence caused damage to both his home and the lorry he had used to transport bananas. At just the time he needed extra funds, he lost his ability to generate income. He felt he had lost everything.
As a consequence, Mohammed began to work with a banana salesman, receiving a daily wage of about US$4 per day. This, he recalls, “was neither enough to repay $3,200 loan I used for repairing my house, nor was it enough to pay the basic needs of my family.”
Targeting 18 districts – including Lawder – the Enhanced Rural Resilience in Yemen joint programme is designed to empower participants, providing them with opportunities to earn cash quickly, acquire skills, and plan for longer-term income-generation.
For Mohammed, the programme seemed to open a door that had long been shut, helping him to become the businessman he had dreamed of being. First, he was engaged in cash-for-work projects – short-term projects designed to help meet basic family needs, quickly. Directing a portion of his earnings to a savings account, Mohammed put 40 per cent aside for business purposes. He then received business skill training, which he used to design a plan for a new banana retail business. A project consultant reviewed the plan and confirmed its viability; and the project provided Mohammed with a grant of $900, supplementing what he had already put aside for himself.
Within the first two months, Mohammed had managed to repay $2,600 of the debts he had accrued by repairing his home and lorry. Now, he describes this business as the lifeblood of his family. “At the beginning of the project,” he says, “my daily net profit ranged between $32 - $48. But now, after more than two months since I started the business, my average daily net profit is between $48 - $80.
“The programme has given me a golden chance of becoming even better of who I used to be. I have better skills now, and I am more ambitious and confident. I will use the skills I got to make sure that the door of success and prosperity will always be open.”
The Enhanced Rural Resilience in Yemen (ERRY) joint programme is funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Labour Organization (ILO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and World Food Programme (WFP) in the Yemeni governorates of Hajjah, Hodeidah, Lahj and Abyan. The three-year programme aims to enhance the resilience and self-reliance of crisis-affected rural communities through support to livelihoods stabilization, food security, local governance, social cohesion and improved access to sustainable energy. UNDP works in partnership with the Sustainable Development Foundation (SDF).