USAID applauds Yemen agriculture program

By Maggie Farrand

May 13, 2014

The Community Livelihoods Project reached more than 600,000 Yemenis with agricultural interventions, breaking the cycle of poverty and reducing unemployment. © USAID

A more stable and positive future for Yemen depends on having strong agricultural markets and farmers with the capacity to supply them, said U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Mission Director Herbie Smith.

USAID’s support for Yemen’s farmers and value chain professionals has been evident; it funded Creative Associates International’s four-year Community Livelihoods Project, which provided vital services like basic healthcare, agricultural inputs and technological upgrades, capacity building, recovery of livelihoods and economic growth opportunities.

At the project’s Transition Conference on April 30, Smith addressed a crowd of more than 80 people at the Movenpick Hotel in Sana’a, including Yemen’s Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation, Mr. Farid Ahmed Mogawar, delegates from the U.S. Embassy and USAID, donor agencies and international organizations working in Yemen.

In his remarks, Smith commended Creative’s dynamic team for what he deemed “outstanding work” from 2010 to 2014.

“The CLP Agriculture Program has built a strong record of success in the agriculture sector,” Smith said. “Working with the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation to reach farmers and the private sector, CLP has helped demonstrate advanced technology which has significantly increased productivity and farmer incomes.”

The Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation echoed Smith’s comments.

“CLP had big impacts on the livelihood of the farmers in the rural areas…and in a very critical political situation,” said Mogawar. “The results have been excellent.”

Four years of progress

Yemen’s agriculture sector is troubled by low yields, deterioration of arable land and limited protected areas. It is further hindered by a lack of extension methodologies, agricultural marketing infrastructure and an enabling environment for private sector investment.

With widespread political instability, these complexities are only made worse, contributing to a cycle of poverty and fueling unemployment.

The Community Livelihoods Project reached more than 600,000 Yemenis with agricultural interventions, including those living in some of the country’s least stable regions.

In the program’s first phase, focused on relief and stability, approximately 81,000 farmers were trained on crop and livestock management; 3,250 households received training and inputs for domestic food production; and 1.7 million animals were vaccinated against Peste des Petits Ruminants and Sheep Pox. More than 2,000 women were trained in kitchen gardening, food processing and animal husbandry.

In the final two years, the project teamed with the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, private service providers and agricultural associations to strengthen horticulture, coffee and honey value chains.

Farmers in selected locations across Yemen erected solar-powered greenhouses and drip irrigation systems—green technologies that boosted production and conserved vital resources.

Kharabh Mahab, chair of the Water Users’ Association of Sana’a’s Beni Matar district, constructed his first greenhouse in 2013.

“The only way to improve our life in Yemen is through agriculture,” he says. “The greenhouse has become one big success, particularly because it uses less water and yields more [produce].”

When growing cucumbers, for example, traditional agricultural practices require 517 liters of water per kilogram, and produce 540 kilograms per 374 square meter. The greenhouse model only requires 32.5 liters of water and produces 6,000 kilograms – a 1,000 percent increase in yield.

“[The project’s] work with greenhouse production has helped spur a major expansion of this production technology across Yemen,” said Smith at the April 30 ceremony.

The team constructed five field classrooms for use as demonstration sites, where experts from the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation showed nearby farmers how to similarly lower production costs in environmentally sustainable ways.

Strengthening coffee and honey production

Yemen’s coffee industry faces difficulties in increasing productivity and enhancing quality standards. Due to scarce fresh water, ineffective farming practices and no certification program, coffee producers have struggled to redress these challenges.

After conducting an assessment, the Community Livelihoods Project worked with producers to build six coffee nurseries and irrigation sites in six governorates. Staff trained more than 600 farmers in efficient irrigation including rainwater harvesting and storage. They were also trained in proper production and post-harvesting techniques, to ensure high quality beans.

Women were also an important focus: the project rehabilitated a coffee nursery owned by women in Ta’aiz, which led to the development of five additional women-owned nurseries.

According to Mona Ali, chai of the Women’s Agricultural Association in Ibb, the project’s attention to women is really making a difference.

“CLP is contributing significantly to the expansion of skills and experience of rural women in improving their production of coffee by using modern techniques, which is ultimately strengthening their role in the rural economy,” she says.

The project also trained women’s association in Sana’a in basic business and management skills.

To guarantee continued improvement in quality, the project is developing a Coffee Board and Association. Similarly, in April 2013, the project organized a delegation of Yemen coffee producers to attended the Specialty Coffee Association of America Workshop, with the goal of introducing Yemen’s coffee beans to the U.S. and other countries.

To reinvigorate honey production in Yemen, the project refined the technical skills of 28 master trainers from the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation and private associations to assist local beekeepers.

These master trainers then instructed 2,400 local honey producers and processors on new production techniques that will enable them to increase production and boost incomes.

Much as it did to support coffee production, the Community Livelihoods Project also worked to establish of the Yemen Honey Association, responsible for maintaining standards and advocating for producers across the country.

In all three sectors, the project increased business opportunities and market access, enhanced productivity and quality, and reduced private sector risk by improving farming skills, farm enterprise development and extension service delivery.

According to Abdul Hafiz Qarhash, Director General of Plant Production at the Ministry, the project has also brought about institutional-level success.

“CLP became a model – not just for farmers,” said Qarhash at the April 30 ceremony, “but I assure you that it is also a model for the Ministry’s future plans…as they have realized that the activities are touching the everyday lives of the farmers and poor people in the rural and remote areas.”

Across all sectors – including education, health and governance – the Community Livelihoods Project benefited more than 12.3 million Yemenis (as of Dec. 2013). Its early grade reading component will continue through 2015.

Looking forward, Smith remains positive about Yemen’s progress.

“As markets expand, productivity increases and farmers become more competitive, we expect to see an increase in their income and a greater sense of hope for a better future in Yemen,” he said.

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