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The FAO Component of the Consolidated Appeals 2010: Yemen

The FAO Component of the Consolidated Appeals 2010: Yemen
Nov 2009

Yemen has become increasingly unstable due to repeated outbreaks of conflict in the north between the Government and Al Houthi rebels. Following five rounds of fighting since 2004, open hostilities resumed in August 2009, causing tens of thousands to flee Sa’ada and Amran Governorates, expanding the caseload of IDPs to over 150 000 and spreading violence to neighbouring areas once relied on as safe havens.

Many have been displaced multiple times and the majority of IDPs are women and children. During years of conflict, inhabitants of conflict zones, displaced persons and host communities alike have exhausted their coping strategies and are becoming increasingly vulnerable.

In the south, separatist demonstrations fuel civil unrest, while the increased arrival of refugees, particularly from Somalia and Ethiopia, is placing additional strain on limited natural resources, social services and employment opportunities. Al Qaeda’s presence in remote areas evades government control, further threatening security and the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

Food insecurity has reached unprecedented levels, affecting well over 40 percent of the population. Heavy reliance on imported food items, including 90 percent of wheat and 100 percent of rice, has made Yemen extremely vulnerable to soaring food costs, which remain above pre-crisis levels and beyond the reach of poor households. At the same time, food production has decreased due to consecutive drought and the October 2008 floods in the east.

Challenges facing food security and livelihoods

The agriculture sector, inclusive of crop and livestock production, provides the livelihood and an important source of nourishment for over 70 percent of Yemenis. Repeated eruptions of conflict in the north have forced IDPs to abandon their fields. Following severe drought and crop losses in 2008, irregular summer rains in 2009 delayed the sowing season by one-and-ahalf months. Farmers, if they at all chose to invest in seeds this late in the season, often reported total crop failure.

Despite a fighting effort to keep livestock alive, pastoralists have lost or are at increasing risk of losing their animals. Numerous families escaping conflict zones fled for safety together with livestock – most often their only remaining livelihood asset and safety net. In drought-affected areas, conflict zones, IDP camps and host communities, livestock owners lack access to the natural pastures, supplementary feed, surface water and veterinary services necessary to maintain their flocks. Poor sanitary conditions have also heightened the risk of animal disease outbreaks. These factors have triggered high livestock mortality and the distress sale of productive, life-sustaining assets.

Over time, this situation can only deteriorate unless emergency agricultural assistance reaches affected families rapidly. The populations at stake constitute Yemen’s most vulnerable social strata and are dependent on humanitarian focus and action for survival.

FAO response

In 2010, FAO aims to provide time-critical agricultural inputs to families worst affected by recent shocks. Specifically, the proposed projects seek to ensure that appropriate seeds and fertilizers reach small- and medium-scale farmers in time for the upcoming planting seasons and that vulnerable livestock owners have access to livestock feed and veterinary treatment to safeguard the survival, health and productivity of their herds.

With donor support, FAO will distribute improved and drought-tolerant wheat, sorghum and millet seeds and fertilizers to farming families who suffered total crop losses due to drought, irregular rainfall and depleted water resources. Training in improved soil and water management practices will enable the more effective use of limited rainfall and thereby improve yields in the short and longer term.

To protect the remaining assets of Yemen’s most destitute livestock owners affected by conflict and recurrent drought, FAO seeks to provide families with sufficient quantities of feed to cover the daily requirements of up to ten animals per household for three months, during the most critical phase of the animal feeding calendar. Further, half a million animals in Sa’ada and surrounding governorates will be vaccinated against prevalent TADs and local veterinary staff will be trained in disease surveillance and treatment operations.