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Prospects for agricultural water management
Reducing the gap between water abstraction and available renewable resources and improving the efficiency of water management is a priority. Specific objectives of the second Five-Year Plan are: optimal exploitation of available water resources; improving the means and techniques for water resources recovery and for feeding aquifers; and protecting water resources from pollution.
To achieve these objectives, the government plans to make investments in groundwater recharge, water harvesting, encouragement of traditional and modern water management techniques, and application of modern irrigation techniques. Furthermore, it plans to invest in improving water use efficiency, capacity building, public and social awareness, as well as to pursue policies for equitable distribution of available water resources in rural and urban areas.
Strategies dealing more specifically with the various challenges of irrigated agriculture are set out in the National Water Strategy, adopted by the Council of Ministers in 1999, and in the National Irrigation Strategy, adopted by the Council of Ministers in 2001, which highlight the following aspects:
- ensuring the sustainability of groundwater irrigation: to reduce the rapid overdraft of aquifers, the government strategy will apply macro-economic measures (diesel price increase, increasing import duty on drilling rigs...);
- ensuring the sustainability of spate irrigation schemes: most of the spate irrigation infrastructure is deteriorating due to poor maintenance caused by budgetary constraints in the public sector. The government strategy is to improve the cost effectiveness of their management and to involve users in the management and paying for O&M;
- increasing the productivity of irrigated agriculture: by regional standards, returns to water in irrigation in Yemen are low. The government policy is to promote improved irrigation technologies and research on agricultural water use efficiency and conservation;
- changing the role of the government: the government strategy is to reduce its role to the essential minimum and to involve users more and more in irrigation investment and management.
Concerning O&M of large spate works, decrees have already been issued for Lahej and Abyan governorates to charge an irrigation fee from the farmers on the basis of areas actually irrigated; this will be used for O&M of the head works and the main canals to be implemented by the Government. Farmers themselves are responsible for O&M of the tertiary canals.