Analytical Overview of Yemen Agriculture [Archives:2002/03/Health]

January 14 2002

Prepared for publishing by Ismael Al-Ghabiry
Yemen Times
The Republic of Yemen is an agricultural country with vast agricultural resources. The Government has realized the importance of agricultural research, which is indispensable to generate new technologies to increase food production and farmers incomes and conserve the natural resource base. We, like many other developing world countries, strongly believe that agricultural research is a high-return investment for both producers and consumers, and science-based agriculture is essential to meet the challenges of improving agricultural productivity, alleviating poverty and maintaining the resource base for future generations.
This strategy is the framework for guiding and linking research efforts to achieve future agricultural development objectives and policies. The dynamism of strategy in harmony with the evolving and changing needs of Yemens agricultural sector should be maintained.
Existing Situation of the Agricultural production in Yemen
Yemen is one of the eldest agricultural civilizations as evidenced by archaeological excavations, remnants of irrigation structures and terraces. Agriculture was and still is the main stay of the economy. It contributes nearly 18% to the gross national product (GNP), provides employment to over 16% of the countrys workforce and livelihood for all the rural residents – who constitute nearly 76% of the total population.
Statistics show that the total arable area is estimated to be about 9.5% of the total land area of the country. However, the cropped area varies from one year to another depending on the amount of precipitation. On average, it is about 1.1 million hectares (ha) but in year of ample and well distributed rainfall, it could reach 3.5 million ha. Of the arable crops grown, cereals dominate and occupy about 18% of the cultivated area while fruits and forages and forests occupy 5% and 3%, respectively.
As regards livestock, the national livestock population is estimated at 3.2 million goats, 3 million sheep, 1.1 million cattle, .05 million donkeys and 0.17 million camels. Sheep and goats are reared in the Eastern Plateau Region while cattle and sheep dominate the highland and Coastal Plain Regions. Livestock numbers have declined in the 1980s and early 1990s due to drought, shortages of food and break down in animal health services. In spite of this decline, livestock is considered as the main source for farmers income and provides reasonable opportunities for many rural people to work. Yemeni farmers practice an integrated crop animal system in which they produce cereal summer crops to feed their animals and use the cow manure to improve the soil fertility of their land.
Resource Base
Yemen is situated in the northern stretches of the tropical climate zone. Temperature varies greatly due to the extreme differences in elevation. Mean annual temperatures range form less than 15?C in the highland region to 30?C in the coastal plains region. Recorded temperatures may rise to 40?C during summer in the coastal plains region, and to over 40?C in the desert plateau region. However, the winter temperatures may decrease to freezing in the highland region.
Rainfall is highly erratic in time, quantity and location. It occurs in two periods, the first from March through May, and the second from July until September, which is the heaviest raining season. Normally, there is little or no rain from November to February but there are exceptions in certain regions and years. Rainfall varies from less than 50 mm in the coastal plains region and desert plateau region, to more than 1200 mm in the western mountainous highland region. In general, annual rainfall increases with distance from the Red Sea, reaching 15mm in the Coastal Tihama Plain (Western coastal plain of the coastal plains region), and up to 300-400 mm on the foothills of the mountains. Again, the rainfall increases from south to north and in the western mountainous highlands. Then it decreases in the central highlands towards the capital, Sanaa towards the north in Saada.
The country can be divided into three climates:
-Arid tropical climate: this climate covers the coastal plains and lower mountain slopes in the west and south, and is characterized by high temperatures and low precipitation ranging from 0 to 400 mm.
-Arid sub-tropical climate: this is a transitional climate between the tropical climate of the coastal plains region and the temperate climate of the highland region. Mean monthly temperature varies from 16 ?C to 28 ?C. precipitation ranges from less than 100 mm to 600 mm. It covers the lower and upper mountain slopes and the eastern plateau region.
-Temperate climate: This covers the mountains ranging in altitude from 1800 to 3700m asl. Mean monthly temperature in this climate ranges from 10 ?C to 18 ?C. precipitation varies from 200 mm to more than 1500 mm.
Natural resources
Land resources
The total land area of Yemen is estimated at 55.5 million hectares. Rainfall and irrigation water impose a limit on the arable land which amounts to 209 million ha. Therefore, only 1.1 million hectares (34.5% of the total arable land) is cultivated (of which 61 % is rain-fed and 39% is irrigated). Permanent pasture land and forests occupy 29 and 4% of the total area of the country.
Land ownership
the total households in the Republic of Yemen is 1.001.925. The household are distributed as follows:
Central Highlands and southern Uplands: 423054 households
Northern Highlands: 310835 households
Statistics on households in all regions are presented in % according to size as follows:
Households less than 2 to 5ha 20%
Households ranging from 2 to 5ha 24%
Households ranging from 5 to 20 ha 56%
Land tenure
The percentage of land tenants in the Northern Governorates of Yemen is about 10. Land tenancy is mainly in irrigated areas. In these conditions the tenant gets 33% of the yield after paying the Zakat (religious taxes according to the Muslim Law) while the Land owner gets 66% of the crop if he provides water for irrigation. if water is provided by a third party the owner of the well gets 33% in some cases or 50% in other cases. Under rain-fed conditions and flood irrigated areas the share of the land owner is 50% from the yield. The tenants share is 50% plus the fodder and crop residues. Under rain-fed conditions, the share of the land owner is 50% after deducting all costs of production paid by the tenant. In other cases the land owner leases his land to make sure it is maintained, especially in terraces, by the land tenant without getting any revenues whether cash or in-kind.
Water rights are well maintained under rain-fed conditions and in areas where flood or spring irrigation is practiced. The major principle in water rights is related to the rights of the owner up-stream the valley or the hill slope to collect irrigation water to his satisfaction before the down-stream neighbor can have his share. In the case of spring water farmers have agreed upon shares depending on the amount of water available in the spring.
The countrys soils are generally sandy to silty and loamy in coastal plains region, silty to loamy and clay loamy in the highland region, and low in nitrogen, phosphorus, and organic matter. In many areas, shallow soils limit the amount of water available for rain-fed crops. Soil erosion caused by run off and/or winds is often serious. Sand and dust storms, which generally blast across the lowlands and highlands, promote soil erosion. Salinity is a problem in irrigated areas.
Water Resources
Water is scarce ad vital to all aspects of development in the country. The availability of water is the major constraint to agricultural production. The total annual renewable amount of water resources is estimated at 2.1 billion m3. Therefore, if the total population is nearly 16 million, then water resources available for per capita never exceed 150 m/annum. This is as compared to 1250 m/annum, which is the average share of each person in the Middle East and North Africa countries, and that the international average is nearly 7.500 m/annum. The distribution of this vital resource is erratic, where 90% of the population receive only 90 m per capita/annum. Furthermore, underground water is the main water resource, where nearly 60% of the total renewable water resource (about 1.3 billion m) is underground water. The total amount of water used in 1994 was estimated at 2.8 billion m. this means that the country overused its available water resource (2.1 billions m) by nearly 0.7 billion m. the two major resources of water supply in Yemen are rain water and underground water.
Rain Water
Rainfall is the basic water resource. It varies from less than 350 mm, which could be considered below the minimal amount needed for rain-fed agriculture, to about 1500 mm per year. The highest and most consistent rainfall occurs in the southern highlands, near Ibb. Spate irrigation rations the occasional flood waters form storms in the mountainous catchment areas to the coastal and foothill areas. A large portion of the cultivated area relies on spate irrigation. nearly 70% of agricultural areas depend on rainwater for production of crops and livestock.
Underground Water
Wells and springs are important sources for domestic supply and irrigation. these offer farmers more water supply than spate irrigation. however, the large increase in the number of wells, the uncontrolled use of pumped water, and the tendency to neglect the traditional spate system are increasingly causing depletion of wells, low quality of water for irrigation, and salinization of solis.
Vegetative cover
Studies revealed that the total area under forests and shrubs in Yemen is estimated to be 2.5m ha in the 1970s. This area, however, was decreased to 1.5m ha in the recent years as a result of free cutting, excessive herding, overgrazing and the changes in climate. Must be noted that nearly half the area of the country is considered desert and rangeland subjected to continuous deterioration.
Livestock is considered an important part of agriculture activities in the life of rural population in different farming systems. Livestock is also considered one of the major economic pillars in the country because it is a major investment which farmers relay on in facing agriculture production and household needs. Livestock is also a major source of income; it covers the daily needs of many rural families.

Source: Agricultural Research Strategy