Wadi Thana:Crises awaiting solution [Archives:2003/677/Culture]

October 16 2003

Hassan Al-Zaidi
Wadi Thana is considered of the main valleys in Yemen where its waters pour into Marib Dam whose waterfall level reached 20,175 cubic meters during the last month. This dam feeds into the underground water wells in the area but the farmers can not make use of it for irrigating their fields.
The suffering of Wadi Thana people who live around the dam gets worse due to the precipitated water in the dam because the still waters created a suitable environment for mosquitoes and insects; it also covered some areas of their fields and forced them to move from the flooded areas. And in spite of the fact that large areas of their fields have been flooded with water yet they have not seen any projects by the government or by the UAE government which promised to build the dam in 1983. Still they are working hard to survive because their lands are their only source of income.
In a field visit by the Yemen Times to the valley a lot of facts were revealed and this is what we found;
Farmer Naji bin Saleh said that there are huge dry arable lands but because there are no facilities for removing the 'athl' trees more than seven years have gone by without being able to cultivate the land. The locals try to cut off those trees by simple axes and farm the available areas, yet water floods come in seasons and because they don't have facilities to organize the irrigation they face a lot of difficulties just to earn a living on their own lands.

Was the American ambassador aware of Wadi Thana's farmers' requirements before his visit to Marib?
Ahmed Saeed al-Zaiadi is the owner of the largest tomato and vegetables farm said: 'we need a lot of water to plant the vegetables and crops which we have in our fields such as tomato, onions, and potatoes and so on. So we worked on digging manual wells and use simple water pumps for pulling out water. Our limited abilities allow us only to cultivate a small portion of the available land, and the rest is covered with 'athl' trees which absorb dampness of the soil.) He complains further by saying: 'where is the state? And where are the so- called international support and the American funding which we hear of? Water has flooded wide areas of our land and we have not seen anyone who would help. Some have been forced to leave because of the terrible conditions and others coming from Sana'a who are able and started investing in this area because we can't.)
About the American aid for this area Ahmed al-Zaidi comments: 'we heard that our American friends will donate 15 million USD and we were quite optimistic but we came to know that we have been excluded from this aid and this made us depressed. Because what the Americans provide it seems it will take its way into the authorities pockets in the Ministry of Agriculture and others just like millions of dollars granted to the Eastern Region Developing Body found their way else where. Ask the body what it achieved for the Marib people or others? I hope that the Americans would pay a visit to this place and see exactly what we are going through so that their support goes where it is needed. We are in urgent need for modern farming facilities, for ploughing and for irrigation etc.

Wadi Thana farmers are upset with the local and the American funding!
What about the agriculture office? This is what we asked another farmer Mr. Mohammed Tuaiman who said: 'we created tomato farms and others then we were faced by diseases and pests that completely destroyed what we made. We requested the agriculture office to provide us with a car for spraying the fields with chemicals and with anti-pests chemicals but the only thing they did was to send a man supposed to be an expert who made us pay for his traveling expenses and recommended us chemicals to buy which we obviously couldn't.)

Livestock projects
We met with one former farmer who shifted to the livestock industry and now raises sheep for a living he said: 'It was not possible to continue as a farmer because we didn't have any facilities so I shifted to breeding sheep. Now I am facing problems with ‘alaf’ (fodder). Ali Dowidan continued his story saying: 'we heard that the Americans will start off a livestock project in Marib but it will simply be beyond us because we are excluded from everything and I fear that the authorities will as usual keep the money with them. We are thankful to the aid we get from the Americans but do they really know what goes on with their money? I wish I could get some small loans that would help me start off a business and provide my family with a good life.)

Wadi Thana has huge areas that could be invested. There are so many potential projects and enough manpower to carry them out. The only missing link is the finance. Now hopes are hanging on the American support which was promised. Because the farmer's problems are not only how to plant his fields but they exceed that to marketing and selling processes especially that most of the people in the area are stuck in dreadful revenge killings issues that engage most of the people instead of being able to proceed further.
The concerned authorities should do something about this valley it's a shame that such great potential and source of income is being wasted just because the people in charge are not feeling enough sense of responsibility to carry on their duties.