Women Training Program ensure women participation in WUAs' activities

FAO support provides water sustainability for farmers while empowering women

20/10/2017

A Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) program in Yemen is helping farmers take advantage of dam water to improve sustainability and give women more opportunities to exert themselves in the country’s conservative decision-making process.

For the past three years, FAO has been supporting the establishment and reorganization of some 38 Water User Associations in the capital Sanaa to better regulate water consumption. The Dutch-funded Sanaa Basin Project has helped the associations with funding, equipment, and – in the process – cultivated room for new thinking.

The best manifestation of the project’s success came recently when the female unit of the Al-Malakah chapter of the capital’s Bani Al-Harith District sought and received FAO support to build shallow wells connected by pipeline to the Sanaa Queen Dam. Under the current management system, all Water User Associations choose their board members through elections and 30 percent of the seats are designated for women.

FAO funded the construction of the wells through a cash-for-work formula so the pumped shallow wells would elevate the nowadays-low level of water at the deep wells that area farmers use for agricultural production. The solution was needed to resolve an old problem.

When the Queen Dam was built in 2002, nearly 350 farmers were hoping to benefit from it. But soon after the construction, a dispute among farmers led to the death of a villager. Community leaders issued a customary tribal decree banning the use of the dam, laying waste to nearly 170,000 cubic meters of water per year – much of it lost to evaporation. The amount would be sufficient for irrigation of 34 hectares of land, much needed in a country whose agricultural base has been badly damaged by years of conflict and mismanagement.

“Through series of individual and group meetings with prominent local figures in the area, women have been playing a key role in raising the local community awareness about this issue, which embodies how judicious the women of Yemen are,” said Elham Al-Remi, head of the Al-Malakah women’s unit.

Agriculture has traditionally been a mainstay of Yemen’s economy and more than half the population was involved in the sector before conflict broke out in 2015. The importance of the sector has become even greater because the country imports most of its food needs and rising prices have levelled the purchase power for most people in the country.

The Sanaa Basin Project is an example of FAO’s decision-making process through which it supports different types of activities to not only support the immediate food and nutrition needs of millions of Yemenis but also facilitate projects that can positively impact the restoration of the country’s overall agriculture infrastructure.