The Hand-in-Hand initiative in Yemen

Q&A with Hussein Gadain, FAO Representative in Yemen

FAO has started adopting the Hand-in-Hand approach to step up efforts to end hunger and poverty in Yemen. Could you tell us about this process?

FAO has started adopting the Hand-in-Hand approach to step up efforts to end hunger and poverty in Yemen. Could you tell us about this process?

Hand-in-Hand in Yemen is the natural continuation of a process that is already ongoing in the country. It is about strengthening partnerships between FAO and national and international partners involved in agriculture, food and nutrition security, and poverty reduction – moving towards SDG 1 and SDG 2.

The specific context of Yemen - conflict, environmental and social challenges, and the current risks related to COVID-19 - calls for partnerships, and FAO is ready to contribute to this call from a leading position. Hand-in-Hand is a transformational opportunity for change that the Government has enthusiastically welcomed.

In 2019, responding to a competitive call, FAO Yemen successfully assisted the Government of Yemen to submit a project proposal to the Global Agriculture & Food Security Program (GAFSP) - one of the most active international players in the Zero Hunger fight,  focused on nutrition and value chain development as elements of relief and resilience (especially through the SAPReP+ project).

The need to reinforce the national policy and investment national framework was revived during the course of formulation, which was also in response to GAFSP’s requirements. Hand-in-Hand represents the opportunity to merge a promising FAO initiative with the UN agency’s ongoing work in Yemen, with the aim of developing a consistent and inclusive policy and investment framework, maximizing financing for resilience and development, with food and nutrition security, and poverty reduction as entry points.

We are the beginning of this process - setting the scene and ensuring we have the needed internal capacities to carry out the initiative over the coming years. To date, we have developed a Roadmap for the update of the agriculture strategy and design of the Investment Action Plan, with the support of FAO’s Regional Office for Near East and North Africa and Investment Centre. We are mobilizing funding and technical resources through FAO’s Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP), and we are ready to engage with development partners, international financial institutions, civil society and private sector for a shared process. 

How is Hand-in-Hand different from previous initiatives, approaches?

How is Hand-in-Hand different from previous initiatives, approaches?

Hand-in-Hand brings momentum and an innovative way to plan, design and implement evidence- and need-based responses in the country, based on two key aspects. The first is its potential for evidence-based planning, freely accessible to any development actor in the country. The new GIS Data Platform, which is currently being developed, coupled with the analytical work of the georeferenced Integrated Food Security Phase Classification - IPC and the Resilience Index Measurement and Analysis (RIMA) will provide all stakeholders with ready-made data to support informed, evidence-based decision-making, and will enable the

georeferenced monitoring (connecting geospatial coordinates to datasets, maps, images, etc. that can help to better target areas and track impact) of all investment projects. Hand-in-Hand’s second innovative aspect lies in the inclusive and collaborative approach in planning. While Yemen has a history of comprehensive agricultural strategies, culminated with the 2012-2016 National Agriculture Sector Strategy (NASS), the currently fragmented governance and the urgent needs of the country are a call for more cohesion and focus.  

Hand-in-Hand proposes a broad sectoral and even cross-sectoral approach and a shared vision, with the ambition to develop local capacities as well as catalyze external partners’ interest and investments around SDG 1 and SDG 2. This approach will also result in fostering a stronger Humanitarian – Development – Peace nexus, addressing not only the immediate impacts of food crises but also their root causes, and strengthening the path to development, with agri-food value chains as the entry point.

What has been your experience, and what have been some of the key takeaways for FAO in Yemen so far from this process?

What has been your experience, and what have been some of the key takeaways for FAO in Yemen so far from this process?

Yemen is a complex environment. I am grateful for the possibility to work with a solid and multidisciplinary country team that has built such strong partnerships with national counterparts and development partners. Most of FAO’s work focuses on emergency relief, and we have strong capacity to deliver, which is greatly appreciated. However, as a knowledge-based organization, our work is always aimed at strengthening the capacities of farmers and value chain players, of government and partners. 

What is the next step?

What is the next step?

Implementing FAO’s main projects is a key priority, and a challenge at the same time in view of the country’s context. With support from FAO’s Investment Centre and the regional office, in the coming weeks, we aim to consolidate the Hand-in-Hand task force and mobilize the TCP as we prepare to undertake the data gathering and analysis in preparation of the strategic and investment planning, and engage stakeholders in the second half of the year.

How do you see the Hand-in-Hand approach evolving, and playing out in Yemen in the long run?

How do you see the Hand-in-Hand approach evolving, and playing out in Yemen in the long run?

Hand-in-Hand is a process that starts with designing an inclusive investment plan for the agricultural sector, but it is a commitment to generate momentum and capacities in country for longer-term results. FAO needs to be ready to accompany the country in the implementation of the investment plan, by building capacities that will enable the next cycle of planning and implementation. In our vision, in the medium term (1-2 years), Hand-in-Hand represents the opportunity to foster aid effectiveness, reinforce mechanisms of coordination, alignment and harmonization, and strengthen institutional and individual capacities to make progress towards SDG 2 and SDG 1. In the longer run, Hand-in-Hand represents a systematic tool to maximize development financing, stimulating mobilization of public resources (essentially development partners) and private investment, according to the emerged evidence of existing gaps and potentials. 

Any recommendations to other FAO member countries - especially to those with a similar context - already applying or envisaged to apply the Hand-in-Hand model?

Any recommendations to other FAO member countries - especially to those with a similar context - already applying or envisaged to apply the Hand-in-Hand model?

It may be too early for drawing specific lessons from our Hand-in-Hand progress made so far, however this ambitious challenge has reminded us of the importance of promoting an inclusive, collaborative and country-led process, which can only be achieved if based on a political and economic analysis that identifies key partners and potential political champions. We have found it practical to kick off the process with a concise narrative - to clarify entry points and areas of common interest, objectives and rules - which seems to be getting partners and stakeholders interested.

Is there anything else you might like to add?

Is there anything else you might like to add?

We look forward to continue building on the Hand-in-Hand initiative in the country, although we acknowledge that in the context of Yemen, it is a highly ambitious goal. The huge needs of the country (2 out of 3 people suffer from acute food insecurity, 1 out of 4 is malnourished, and 1 out of 10 is internally displaced), protracted crisis, high vulnerability to climate change and the additional uncertainties related to COVID-19, are both the motivation for implementing the Hand-in-Hand initiative in the country, and also the factors that may hinder the achievement of the initiative’s noble goals. The level of success of Hand-in-Hand will depend largely on the relative stability of the country, although we will continue to strive to make the initiative to reach as far as possible. 

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