Dhamar farmers fight for food security
DHAMAR — Food insecurity is reaching alarming rates in Yemen. The 2011 Humanitarian Response Plan indicated that at least 2.7 million Yemenis are food insecure. While agriculture production is decreasing, according to state reports issued at the end of 2010, qat and tobacco farming have increased by 14 percent and 7 percent respectively.
The agriculture production slump was behind a European Union, French and German Red Crosses joint-funded project in 2010 to rehabilitate fertile land in Dhamar and encourage farmers to revive efficient, traditional production practices.
Mujahid al-Ansi, Secretary General of Dhamar's Local Council, said that results from this project are becoming visible in the ten villages in four of the governorate's districts of the governorate, in which more than 14,000 farmers are involved.
“The studies showed that only 18 percent of the country’s cereal needs come from domestic production, and the rest we have to import,” said Al-Ansi. “This is why such projects not only help the national economy, but also create job opportunities.”
Mohammed, a farmer from Dhamar and beneficiary of this project – having received enhanced seeds and water facilities – said that he now has a more stable income and is even able to employ others during the peak season. Before, Mohammed himself used to go to the city to look for jobs.
“You have this land, but working it is too much trouble; it's not beneficial, so we turn to the cities. Now we receive help in making our own lands profitable and we know this is making a dent in the nation's food insecurity, so all is well,” said Mohammed.
Water sources and irrigation are also a large part of this project, especially since over 90 percent of farmers use underground water rather than harvest rainwater for their farms. Studies show that 99.8 percent of farmers in Dhamar have difficulty maintaining their agriculture terraces due to lacks of funds and the loss of traditional knowledge and methods.
The project has funded 16 water services, including tanks and reservoirs, which provide water for more than 100 hectares of farmed land (one hectare equaling 10,000 square meters).