Germany campaigns against qat, tackles food crisis in Yemen [Archives:2008/1187/Local News]

September 4 2008

By: Amel Al-Ariqi
SANA'A, Sep, 2- Germany is providing 16 million euros (around US $ 24 million) to support Yemenis in coping with the food crisis, said the German Embassy in Sana'a last week.

“The German government is granting Yemen financial and technical assistance to relieve the plight of its poorest people who suffer from rising food prices. With this contribution, Germany also wants to support the Government of Yemen in its efforts to improve food security and to cope with the internal root causes for Yemen's dependence on food imports,” said a press release issued on Tuesday.

According to the statement issued by the German Embassy, US $ 10.5 million will be used to support a food security policy, provide seeds and fertilizer to farmers for national food production and launch a campaign against the production and use of qat. The period of the campaign is four years, from 2008 to 2012.

“Qat consumes an important proportion of family income which could be spent on food instead, and is a major factor for the over-extraction of ground water and the dwindling water resources in Yemen,” said a spokesperson for the embassy, adding, in an exclusive statement to Yemen Times, that it considers qat consumption in Yemen to be one of the most important factors behind the country's structural problems, such as food shortages, economic development and dwindling water resources. The spokesperson further declared that the campaign is aimed at raising awareness of the harmful effects of qat consumption to Yemen's economy and society.

According to the statement issued by the embassy, target groups of the campaign are malnourished and at-risk people as well as households in Yemen who will ultimately profit from the project due to better strategies and measures to achieve a more stable food situation.

Yemen's malnutrition rate for children under five is one of the highest in the world, according to the Ministry of Health.

The Germany Embassy, which is a member of the Joint Task Force on the Food Crisis in Yemen, said that the aim of this grant is to support the Government of Yemen in improving its policy on food security and dealing with the internal root causes for Yemen's dependence on food imports.

According to the World Bank, Yemen imports 75% of its food and half of its population lives on less than $2 a day, yet households continue to spend 10 percent of their income on qat.

The spokesperson for the embassy stated that the awareness campaign would have to show that qat cultivation may reap quick profits, but that only very few are benefitting from these, whereas every Yemeni will suffer from the consequences of qat cultivation, if it continues to harm local food production by consuming a great part of non-renewable aquifers.

In addition to this grant, the World Food Program (WFP) will receive US $ 13.5 million from Germany over the next three years for its nutrition program for pregnant and breast-feeding women, as well as children under five who are particularly vulnerable. The spokesperson for the embassy said that the German government had worked with the WFP on many levels in many countries and would continue its successful cooperation with WFP in Yemen, adding that the Government of Yemen had agreed that it was an efficient way to relieve the plight of the poorest people who suffer from the food crisis.

With this additional grant, Germany will increase its two-year pledge for Yemen for the years 2007-2008 to 89.5 million euros, which is around US $ 135 million.