“The first harm Yemen’s ongoing war inflicted on farmers was the lack of fuel; the second was the high cost of seeds; and the third was the soaring price of pesticides. The same pesticide that used to cost me 1,000 Yemni Riyals (about USD 2) increased to 8,000 Riyals (about USD 16). Sometimes I would have harvest and sell five baskets of tomatoes or zucchinis just to purchase half a bag of flour.” Khaled Mohammed
As one of the most food insecure countries in the world, around 24 million Yemenis (80 per cent of the population) are facing hunger. Fighting around the country’s seaports, the ensuing suspension of commercial imports and supply shortages, and the depreciation of the Yemeni riyal – which is now worth barely a third of the 2015 level – have combined to push food prices up.
Even before the war, child malnutrition was widespread throughout the country. In 2013, 46.5 per cent of children under 5 years of age were stunted, and 16.3 per cent suffered from acute malnutrition. As of February 2019, an estimated 2 million children, or approximately 50 percent of children under the age of 5, were suffering from acute malnutrition, and more than 350,000 were severely malnourished.
Against this stark backdrop, a majority of Yemen’s farmers who are capable of providing citizens with nutritious food staples have suffered from limited incomes, have had their salaries interrupted for the past 5 years or have lost their jobs altogether due to excessive agricultural expenses, water scarcity, and the high costs of fuel, fertilizers, seeds, and pesticides.
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Yemen’s farmers are in urgent need of support so that they can grow more food and provide young people with jobs.
For many years, 32 year-old Khalid Al-Qahwi barely scraped by on his limited farming income in Raymah Governorate. Reliant on costly flood irrigation that depleted water reserves, wasted fuel, and required tremendous labor to mow weeds. He had no choice but to employ up to 15 workers at any given time to manage his modest farm.
Thanks to the support he received from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Relief Fund (KSRelief) – in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and local partners – Khalid was able to purchase an integrated irrigation network with a filter and water pit, as well as fertilizers.
Now, he only needs to employ one assistant to irrigate and spray his trees and crops with fertilizers and pesticides, and he can easily keep up with the seasons – planting tomatoes, zucchini, and okra to feed his entire community.
In Khaled’s words: “The support made an incredible difference because the drip irrigation system only requires a little water, and we also save money on diesel and the cost of hiring laborers to sustain our crops.”
He also benefits from weekly visits with agricultural engineers, who instruct local farmers on proper irrigation methods and how to use pesticides and fertilizers. With further support, farmers could build greenhouses and solar energy systems for their wells that would feed even more Yemenis in the coming years.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) funding to the UNDP Yemen Emergency Crisis Response Project (YECRP) has contributed to the ongoing famine response efforts. UNDP addresses drivers of food insecurity where comparative advantages and demonstrated results exist, including: (a) lack of income; (b) inadequate food production; and (c) gaps in institutional capacities and critical service delivery. Interviewed beneficiary farmers reported a 98 per cent increase in their harvest. Water consumption for supported farmers has decreased to 36 per cent after the use of drip irrigation technology that was introduced by the project. Thanks to the KSA’s generous contribution, supported beneficiaries reported improvement in their livelihoods as a result of their improved incomes.