38 Water User Associations strengthened to respond to the water crisis and protect farmers’ livelihoods in Sana’a basin

38 Water User Associations strengthened to respond to the water crisis and protect farmers’ livelihoods in Sana’a basin

08/03/2016

Despite the ongoing conflict, 38 Water User Associations (WUAs) are strengthened in Bani Huwa, Zahr Al Ghayl, Hamdan and Ghayman Sana’a sub-basins, in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation and the Ministry of Environment and Water, marking the first milestone towards a more sustainable management of groundwater and improved food security in Sana’a basin under the three-year project, “Sana’a decentralized water resource use and supply management” funded by the Kingdom of Netherlands.

The water shortage and food security situation in Sana’a basin was already alarming before the conflict started. Underground water resources were dramatically depleting to cover the needs of a growing population of 2.5 million people in the Capital city, local industries and to irrigate agricultural lands in the basin. Under a national initiative aiming at reducing groundwater abstraction, 56 WUAs were established in Sana’a Basin between 2002 and 2010. However, only 20 percent are still active and their impact has been limited.

In response, FAO applies an integrated approach and works in close cooperation with its national implementing partners, the National Water Resources Authority – Sana’a Branch (NWEA-SB), the Northern Highland Research Station (NHRS), the National Irrigation Programme (NIP) and the Water and Environment Centre of Sana’a University (WEC) for the strengthening of WUAs, which will ensure long-term sustainable water management, while at the same time protect famers’ livelihoods.

The project aims at raising farmers’ awareness on water scarcity and preparedness to reduce their groundwater abstraction; identifying and implementing adapted sustainable, climate smart, crop production systems with lower water input and equal or higher net income for farmers; and empowering the WUAs to negotiate sustainable groundwater management plans and to access microcredits to insure their sustainability and to better serve the farmers’ community.

“Despite the challenges brought by the conflict, 482 farmers from 38 WUAs have followed a comprehensive training program through 18 training workshops on the water status of their respective sub-basins, modern and traditional agriculture practices, planning skills, communication skills, good governance and gender. A board of Directors was elected for 24 WUAs established, 24 women committees were formed and 1885 Water User Groups (1,277 men WUGs and 608 women WUGs) were created. The WUAs have drafted their 2-year integrated water management, crop production and marketing action plan. Monitoring of the WUAs is ongoing”, said Walid Saleh, FAO Chief Technical Advisor, Sana’a basin project.

The successful implementation of the project could be expanded to the remaining sub-basins of the Sana’ basin, providing that funding is available. With the escalation of the conflict since March 2015 the water crisis has deteriorated further with the soaring price and severe shortages of fuel increasing the cost of transported water and rendering diesel-power pumps inoperable. The Sana’a city waste water treatment plant has stopped functioning. “In some areas, farmers are forced to use the raw waste water for direct irrigation putting themselves and the consumers of vegetables grown in these fields at risk of water borne diseases and Cholera, which could further exacerbate malnutrition, morbidity, and mortality rates” said Walid Saleh.

“People living in rural areas are now totally cut off”, said Salah El Hajj Hassan, FAO Representative in Yemen. “We are calling on all parties to take immediate action to minimize the loss of humans due to water scarcity” he added.

FAO appeals for USD 25 million against the Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan for 2016 for life-saving and emergency agricultural interventions, including to increase water supply for farming, fisheries and livestock production purposes, through the distribution of solar water pumps, rehabilitation of water infrastructure (e.g. wells, canals, cisterns and reservoirs) and support to WUAs.