The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) recently released a plan of action to enhance food security in Yemen between 2018 and 2020. Right now, 17.8 million Yemenis are food insecure and 8.4 million are severely food insecure.
The overall goal of the three-year Plan of Action is to make a significant contribution towards improving food security and nutrition and strengthening the resilience of vulnerable rural and peri-urban households while restoring the agriculture sector of the country. (1)
The agriculture sector in Yemen has been devastated by the war. Agricultural inputs and animal feed are expensive and scarce, farmers do not have the resources to combat pests or animal and plant diseases, qat production is expanding and reducing land availability for food production, the workforce is emigrating, and public resources are not being allocated to agriculture. In order to sustainably restore this sector, the plan of action prioritizes long-term capacity-building interventions. FAO also recognizes the necessity of short-term food and cash distributions to immediately repair damages and losses caused by the war, but warns that an exclusive focus on short-term interventions can cause food-aid dependency and hinder resilience capabilities.
The report outlines three pillars (subdivided into 21 short- and long-term inventions) that specify how FAO will achieve its goal. This is estimated to cost a total of $228.5 million. These pillars recognize the diversity of need in Yemen, encouraging flexibility in the implementation of all interventions.
Pillar 1: Emergency support to the most vulnerable rural and peri-urban households (across famine-risk districts)
This pillar outlines eight short-term interventions and seeks to immediately assist 1.17 million vulnerable households, at an estimated cost of $150 million. These interventions include cash-based transfers for the development of infrastructure on farms and in rural communities at large. Before the transfers, local need assessments will be conducted to determine what infrastructure will be most beneficial to the specific community. This pillar also calls for the distribution of agricultural kits. These kits are designed to help 200,0000 rural households engage in “climate smart cereal production.” FAO will assess communities and then distribute kits to those who need them the most. FAO will take gender into consideration when selecting beneficiaries, acknowledging the fact that war disproportionately impacts women. Once the kits are distributed, FAO will help the beneficiaries create and implements plans to manage their new crops. Other interventions under this pillar include the distribution of fishing equipment, and mechanisms to combat the threat of pests, locusts, and crop and animal diseases.
Pillar 2: “Support to the sustainable restoration and diversification of agricultural livelihoods and agri-food systems (across districts where access is secured)”
This pillar includes longer-term interventions to assist 135,200 households for a cost of $70.5 million. It is designed to promote “climate-smart technologies and practices and capacity development measures for each agro-ecological zone found in Yemen” (30). Creating sustainable water and land use will help ensure the productivity of farms, fisheries, and forestries past the three-year timeframe of this plan. Specific interventions under this pilar include supporting and creating community-based seed production systems, and encouraging public-private community partnerships (PPCPs) that organize and run seed supply systems. These PPCPS will be designed to ensure sustainability in all steps of production.
Another intervention under this pillar is “Promoting sustainable water resources management systems, decentralised irrigation management schemes and CSA technologies and practices.” The goal of this intervention is to establish sub-basin water management committees, water user associations, farmer associations, and to help resource-poor farmers adopt and manage climate smart farming technologies and practices.
Pillar 3: “Improved coordination of planning, programming and support for food security, nutrition and agricultural livelihoods”
This pillar aims to help the government, UN agencies, NGOs, civil society organizations, private sector organizations, and multilateral and bilateral partners enhance “coordination capacities for the planning, programming, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of short-term emergency, medium-term recovery and long-term development actions within the agriculture sector.” (40) FAO provides 4 interventions to fulfill this goal, which will cost $8 million. The interventions are designed to create and strengthen government networks, and decentralize information and early warning systems. One specific intervention is to create “a national information and early warning system on food security and agriculture and fisheries-based livelihoods” that covers all governorates. This entails strengthening the capacities of stakeholders in all governorates to effectively collect and share data, which will help everyone better understand the primary drivers of food insecurity in Yemen.
According to FAO, the interventions outlined in this report are designed to not only combat food insecurity, but also to revive Yemen’s economic and institutional capabilities over all. The development of these capabilities will help the country avoid numerous forms of crisis in the future.