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Agriculture is one of the most important sectors of Yemen’s national economy. It accounts for about 15% of GDP and for more than 50% of the total workforce in the country, at the same time satisfying a significant part of the population’s food needs and contributing to reduce the incidence of poverty in rural communities. Agricultural sector also accounts for a large portion of non-oil domestic exports and provides livelihood through agricultural production and breeding. The country is characterized by water scarcity and by its dependence on rain water which ranges from 50-250 mm / year in the eastern regions and coastal areas, to 1,200 mm / year in the Southern Highlands. Rainfed agriculture is the dominant cultural practice, affecting approximately 50% of the cultivated land.

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Despite the fact that the current water demand in the country is still minimal, the available water resources are likely to meet only a part of the supposed future needs. The total amount of water from renewable resources is estimated at about 2.5 billion cubic meters per year, while the quantities consumed reach 3.5 billion cubic meters. The estimated difference of about 1 billion cubic meters is filled by groundwater, thus limiting the expansion of agriculture and the possibility of future land reclamation.

Along with scarce arable land, the small size of agricultural holdings is another prevailing feature in the country. Family farming is the dominant form of agriculture and it accounts for the majority of food production. According to the latest national agricultural survey, the total arable land (about 1.6 million hectares) accounts for 2% of the whole country; the agricultural holders are 1.180.105, owning an average of 1.36 Haper holder, and the farmlands’ small size allows families to cultivate by themselves.

Along with the inability to employ, family farming in the country is also characterized by low productivity and poor yields sand by a large numbers of holdings located in mountainous areas and terraces depending on families that represent the largest supplier of agricultural work in the country.

In such a context, Yemen is facing a big effort to alleviate poverty and promote development in the countryside, giving to agriculture the attention it deserves to leverage rural development and securing the appropriate environment in order to promote agricultural investment. These actions are crucial in order to improve the contribution of this sector, (already accounting for a large part of domestic, non-oil exports) to the whole national economy and to the balance of trade and in consideration of its vital contribution to poverty alleviation, job creation, food security and the general improvement  in the living conditions of the rural population, which would in turn  alleviate the internal migration from the rural areas  to the cities, being a key element for Integrated Rural Development.

The Government of Yemen agrees with the vision encompassing the multiple key factors that are fundamental for a successfully development of family farming, such as agro-ecological conditions and characteristics of terrain, policy environment, access to markets, access to land and other natural resources, access to technology and extension services and access to credit, in addition to demographic, economic, social and cultural conditions, as well as the provision of specialized education and other support.

In order to keep the farmers in the lead, efforts must be taken to allow them to "participate" consciously and voluntarily, for their own benefit and interests.  In addition, the implementation of this agricultural development strategy should be compatible and accepted by family farmers so, making them ready to bear the related costs, in accordance with their abilities and their means.  Furthermore, agricultural development of should be compatible with farmer's needs and aspirations and consistent with the extent of the obstacles they face.

 

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FAO’s response in Yemen

Livelihoods support interventions play a critical role within the humanitarian response; safeguarding and rapidly scaling up food production and therefore increasing food availability among the most vulnerable.
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