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The FAO Component of the Consolidated Appeals 2012: Yemen

The FAO Component of the Consolidated Appeals 2012: Yemen
Dec 2011

In 2011, Yemen experienced an upsurge in localized conflicts, civil unrest, political instability and humanitarian needs across the country.

The population also faced rising food costs, drought and increasingly limited resources, including land, water and energy. Around 400 000 Yemenis are internally displaced, both due to protracted conflict in the north and fighting triggered in mid-2011 in the south.

The country also hosts over 230 000 refugees, most fleeing violence and famine in the Horn of Africa. Combined, these factors leave millions at risk of falling deeper into poverty, hunger and malnutrition. Yemen has the highest poverty rate in the Middle East – one in five people lives on less than USD 1 per day.

Challenges facing food security and livelihoods

Yemen’s deteriorating humanitarian situation is leaving many families in a poverty and hunger trap. Two out of three people in Yemen depend on agriculture for income and food. Protracted and recent conflict and drought have resulted in extensive crop and livestock losses and destroyed inputs needed to recover food production, such as seeds, farming tools and animal feed. IDPs were especially affected by livelihood losses: over 80 percent are farmers, sharecroppers or agricultural labourers, and almost one-third own livestock.

Farmers are becoming increasingly destitute. The steep rise in the cost of agricultural inputs, such as fertilizer and seed, is increasing production costs and reducing cultivation. Potential sources of income have decreased dramatically due to the loss of standing crops and related revenue. Conflict and high fuel prices have curtailed the processing, movement and marketing of produce, reducing income opportunities for both farmers and labourers. Yemen also faces a serious water shortage, with a rapidly expanding population and current agricultural practices depleting water tables at an alarming rate.

Livestock are pro-poor, pro-gender assets, provide a vital source of nutrition and income, and act as a lifeline in times of crisis. For many vulnerable families, livestock are the most important – if not sole – income source. IDPs and drought-affected farmers are at high risk of losing further livestock assets. Amid the struggle to escape conflict zones, approximately 30 percent of IDPs fled with their animals – around one in four of these animals died. Both groups are struggling to keep their livestock alive, and lack veterinary supplies, animal feed and adequate grazing pasture.

Yemen relies heavily on food imports – 90 percent of wheat and 100 percent of rice requirements are imported – and is thus extremely vulnerable to global price hikes. Since January 2011, staple food costs increased by an average of 46 percent. Rural households have been hardest hit, with prices 7 percent higher than in urban centres.

IDPs, women and children are especially vulnerable to these shocks. Yemen has the highest gender gap – disparity in opportunities available for men and women – in the world, and female-headed households are among the most food insecure.

FAO response

Food insecurity and hunger will continue to grow in Yemen, unless agricultural assistance is provided to sustain and strengthen food production. FAO seeks donor funding to restore and diversify the livelihoods of affected populations unable to resume production without assistance, with particular focus on women, IDPs and hosting communities.

Farmers urgently need improved cereal and vegetable seeds, fertilizers, on-farm storage and water availability. Related activities will increase access to staple foods, fresh produce and income for farmers, including IDPs through sharecropping arrangements. Restoring farming terraces and water-harvesting systems will help farmers improve yields in light of drought and soil erosion.

FAO also seeks to prevent further livestock losses by providing animal feed and necessary supplements, shelters and veterinary supplies, and also through vaccination campaigns. The programme will provide training to women on improved dairy production and to female community animal health workers on basic animal care. Support to honey beekeeping will also restore a vital source of income and nutrition for women, who have little or no land ownership and very limited access to alternative livelihood opportunities.

In late 2011, FAO introduced the Integrated Food Security and Humanitarian Phase Classification in Yemen – a tool and protocol for food security situation analysis – and seeks funding to further this work with partners in 2012.