More cooperation required to enhance Yemeni water sector reforms [Archives:2007/1040/Health]

April 9 2007

By:Amel Al-Ariqi
Experts confirm that the National Water Supply Strategy and Investment Program (NWSSIP) requires further efforts by both the government and donor NGOs to implement the reform policy, particularly relating to groundwater and irrigation systems in rural areas.

This came during a March 31 workshop on poverty and social impact analysis for water sector reforms. Participants suggested that the impacts of reforms should include equity in various segments of the population, especially poor groups. Additionally, NWSSIP implementation should be improved through continuous monitoring and evaluation, as well as practice studies to develop the mechanism of the program.

The NWSSIP was approved in 2005 as an action plan and investment program for the Yemeni water sector, which includes both urban and rural water supply and sanitation, irrigation and watershed management, water resource management and environmental protection. The sector's key donors are the World Bank, Germany and the Netherlands.

The first joint annual review for 2005-2006 described the Yemeni water sector's overall performance as “moderately satisfactory,” while insisting that budget performance was “unsatisfactory.”

The total five-year NWSSIP investment program will cost $153.8 million: 27.9 percent financed by the Yemeni government, 35.8 percent by donors and 36.3 percent yet unfinanced. To achieve NWSSIP objectives, the water sector requires an estimated $307.6 million annual disbursement for each of the five years; however, total disbursement was only $102 million in 2005, leaving an estimated funding gap of $205.6 million.

Yemen's water scarcity, increased diesel prices and expanding qat production threaten its water sector, which requires rapid and practical reform, especially in rural areas where most citizens are poor farmers.

Supporting community self-regulation and more participation by NGOs in the reform process, in addition to group efforts based on joint coordination and study, are the major ways to help implement the water sector strategy, experts said.

A decentralized system can enhance the strategy's implementation and give local NGOs a wider scope for decision-making participation. Additionally, it can help increase the operational budgets of water sector branches in rural areas, according to the strategy.

Concerning qat production, some participants suggested that qat could be imported into Yemen, as it consumes both large quantities of water and large areas of land. Minister of Water and Environment Abdulrahman Fadhl Al-Eryani said qat could be handled like other agricultural productions, in this case, being imported.

For his part, Deputy Minister of Agriculture Abdulmalik Al-Arashi confirmed that the ministry has implemented some measures related to qat production, including forbidding more planting.