YEMEN:

USAID-Funded Training Yields A Double-Dividend For Yemen’s Farmers

December 14, 2011

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Farmers in training.

Abdul-Allah al-Habili, once surveyed his mangy fields with a sense of resignation. “My onion fields used to yield only 70 bags,” the 52-year-old farmer from Osailan District says. “But now the yields have doubled. It is an amazing thing.”

Like so many farmers toiling to support their families in this conflict-torn and harsh region of Yemen’s Shabwah Governorate, al-Habili is benefiting from USAID-funded agricultural training which is not only transforming his own life, but that of the community in which he lives. Shabwah is the fourth largest governorate in Yemen and lies in the southeast of the country. An al Qaeda stronghold, it is also riven by vendetta killings, endemic poverty and terrorism—all of which threaten Yemen’s fragile sense of statehood.

Training farmers and building local agricultural capacity is one of the key aims of the Community Livelihoods Project (CLP), a USAID-funded project that builds community capacity and provides healthcare and agricultural training to marginalized populations living in one of the world’s most impoverished and unstable nations.

Key to this is training government agricultural extension agents (EAs) to instruct rural farmers in the latest agricultural techniques, the use of pesticides, animal husbandry and the treatment of various animal diseases and ailments. Following training, EAs fan out into their respective communities to disseminate what they’ve learned during 10 days of intensive CLP training.

Several months after the course closed, the CLP livelihoods project’s monitoring and evaluation (M&E) officer spent three days in the Governorate to conduct an evaluation. The results showed that although farmers were initially suspicious of new methods—including the use of pesticides and composting—they were soon convinced after the EAs demonstrated how it all worked.

Farmers were particularly impressed with the latter because not only did their crop yields double, but do-it-yourself composting means they no longer have to fork out scarce cash on commercial fertilizers.

Today, a number of neighboring communities are now using pesticides and composting to improve their own yields.

Naji al-Jalali, 40, says not only are his fields producing more, but he now retains half for family consumption and half for the market. “My crops have doubled. It is a big improvement.” Ahmed Salim Mubarak, 55, also from Osailan district adds that he now knows how to fatten goats in order to increase their market value.

According to local government EAs, these new practices represent an important shift in the lives of local farming communities with a positive impact that will reverberate for a long time to come.

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