Rural Women Development [Archives:1998/01/Business & Economy]

January 5 1998

The Rural Women Development Directorate (RWDD) with support from the Royal Netherlands Embassy, organized an exhibition on “The life and Production of Rural Women in the Republic of Yemen.” The exhibition was inaugurated on the 7th of December by H.E. the Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation, Mr. Ahmed Salem Al-Jabali. The Minister emphasized on this occasion, the need to “support rural women and help alleviate some of their burdens because they do a lot of work at home and on the farm, especially when their husbands are working abroad. The assistance mentioned by the Minister includes providing rural women with farm tools and machinery, seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, cattle fodder and other essential farming requirements.
The RWDD was established in 1985 with rather limited resources and was covering only a small number of governorates. Currently, most governorates in the north and the south have a RWD section in the Agricultural Office and it is expected that also in the near future, the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation (MAI) will open a RWD section in Al-Maharah. Extension programs are implemented through 66 Rural Women Development extension centers and 132 Female Rural Extension Agents and 56 Female Agricultural Engineers are working in the RWD sector. The RWD activities implemented under the MAI used to include the following variety of activities: * establishing home gardens; * managing special training farms (vegetables, fruits and fodder); * distribution of seedlings; * training women on sewing, embroidery, knitting, food preserving and first aid; ù organizing illiteracy classes; * raising women’s awareness of public health, mother & child care and nutrition; * organizing vaccination campaigns; * implementing population education programs and * providing veterinary services.
In 1995 the Terms of References of the RWDD have been revised and were approved by the Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation. Accordingly, the RWD activities to be implemented under the MAI should focus on the following three sectors only: agriculture (including forestry and environment), livestock and home economics (i.e. diary production, food processing related to agricultural products and handicrafts of natural materials). Under the Dutch funded project “Assistant to the Rural Women Development Directorate” (ARWDD) a policy and strategy will be developed in 1998 to direct the implementation of the RWD activities in the afore-mentioned three sectors under the MAI. As a result of a national workshop attended by 42 female RWD staff from most governorates in Yemen, the RWDD started to facilitate the access to soft loans for rural women to carry out cattle and sheep rearing projects through the Agricultural and Fisheries Promotion Production fund of the MAI. Chronic lack of resources, as well as lack of proper means of transportation, impede the implementation of many of the above programs. During one of the field trips made by the staff of the RWDD one of the local Female Rural Extension Agents mentioned that they were going by cart and camel to the villages because other means of transportation are absent. Fortunately, the MAI promised to allocate a budget in 1998 to enable various RWD sections to implement their activities. Furthermore, the team leader of the Dutch project “ARWDD” and the director of the RWDD are lobbying from their side with international donors to secure financial assistance for the implementation of RWD activities through the RWD sections under the MAI.
According to the final results of the Population, Housing and Establishment Census of 1994, 77% of the total population lives in rural areas, 50% of the total rural population are women, and 95% of the female economically active population in rural areas are involved in agriculture and livestock against 58% of the male economically active population. Accordingly, the food security will only improve if these facts are recognized and the following actions are taken: * Extension in agriculture and livestock should focus on women; * More female RWD extension staff should be recruited by the Yemeni government; and * Donor funded agricultural projects should have at least a major Rural Women Development component if a full-fledged project for Rural Women Development is not feasible.
Lidwien Scheepers, Team leader “ARWDD”. Bilquis Anwar Abdul Sattar, Director RWDD.