‘Don’t feed those who don’t produce’We want ruling and opposition parties to dialogue on food production [Archives:2008/1173/Opinion]
By: Adel Al-Shujaa
As many as thirty-seven states including Yemen are threatened by famine and starvation due to food crisis, according to a speech delivered by Chairperson of World Trade Organization (WTO). In the same context, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel scorned the third world states that import foodstuffs from the west.
The German Chancellor also defended the European position that prohibits food export to developing countries. She frankly said, “What is our sin in people who eat but don't produce.”
Our esteemed government participated in the World Food Summit and knew more about what the international community should do in order to efficiently deal with the starvation crisis that poses immense threat to the whole world. Our government has nothing ahead except for identifying what it must do to rescue its people from starvation.
If the Yemeni people want to eat, they have to produce enough food. Merkel announced that the west will not feed people who don't produce their own food, nor will it allow these people to consume what is produced in the west.
I don't know how we allow ourselves to criticize western countries that established factors for producing ethanol, a fuel substance made of surplus wheat. Why we don't criticize qat cultivation in fertile lands where grains and other essential agricultural crops must be grown.
I don't think that we are entitled to grow qat while the west has no right to transfer surplus wheat into fuel. The westerners should feel free to produce fuel needed by their daily activities like we are free to produce qat leaves. Also, grain-producing countries should feel free to manipulate their production as they want.
Does the Yemeni government understand the great importance of fighting qat cultivation, which has negative impacts on economic development and social conditions countrywide. President Ali Abdullah Saleh has shown a great interest to address this problem, and the clearest evidence in support of this is that he gave directions banning qat chewing inside military and security institutions, as well as other worksites.
The relevant agencies in the government have not responded to these directions while the phenomenon (qat chewing) still constitutes a major concern to those interested in development issues and social progress. Qat cultivation is also responsible for waste of natural resources and sincere efforts expended with the aim of fostering economic development.
The qat problem asserts itself again and again, and therefore we have to admit that Qat trees consume a great portion of reform and development revenues. For the time being, we are in an urgent need for a social dialogue to discuss in details dimensions of this problem, as well as the effective roles, which the government and its local councils must play in this regard.
The fundamental point here is that Qat cultivation and consumption must be seen as a national issue, thereby requiring collaboration between the various political parties and organizations to suggest workable solutions to it. This means more cooperation and coordination between the various government agencies and civic society organization is needed in order to put a stop to the phenomenon of qat production and consumption.
The government can take firm procedures against a minister, found guilty of chewing qat, and as does any of the ministries against a general manager or an executive official over qat consumption. Many of us have become unable to purchase foodstuffs following the most recent wave of price hikes. However, we need to justify whey do we import even canned juice, particularly as the western states have moved toward transforming their agricultural crops into fuel sources.
The Yemeni government is recommended to have agriculture at the top of its agenda, mainly as this sector has been neglected for a long time and its resources have been wasted. Sa'ada, once known as the area of orange, has turned into a scene for explosives and arms, and so did Bani Hushaish area, east of Sana'a, which has been famous for grape production. The responsible agencies in the government must seriously review the situation of agriculture in Yemen before it becomes impossible for them to do so.