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Yemen farmers, fishermen receive assistance

By Faisal Darem in Sanaa

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Salah Hajj Hassan, resident representative of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation in Yemen, speaks with Al-Mashareq about the assistance the agency is providing to farmers and fishermen. [Faisal Darem/Al-Mashareq]

Yemeni farmers, fishermen and livestock breeders are receiving assistance from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to help them resume production, according to FAO resident representative Salah Hajj Hassan.

This is intended to help create private sector job opportunities in addition to boosting food security, Hassan told Al-Mashareq.

This assistance has been challenging to provide, he said, as the FAO, like other aid agencies operating in Yemen, has had to curtail its activities due to the ongoing conflict.

Al-Mashareq : What effect has the war had on FAO’s activities in Yemen?

Salah Hajj Hassan : There is no doubt that the FAO's activities in Yemen have been adversely affected by the circumstances of the war, as the FAO, like other UN agencies, is now limited to helping Yemenis only in cases of emergency.

Since the Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan announced by the UN has received only 50% of the funding the UN had requested for it from the international community and donors, funding for our activities has been reduced by 30 to 50%.

The FAO, like other UN agencies, also is constrained by the shortfall in resources, which continue to be below the minimum required levels, despite the critical importance of the fields in which we operate, particularly the support for food security.

Consequently, FAO’s activities are now limited to emergency fields that focus on helping producers regain the initiative and resume production, which helps the targeted [recipients] obtain their food needs and revive the economic cycle in the private sector, which benefits from agricultural, livestock and fisheries production in one way or another.

Al-Mashareq : What role is the FAO seeking to fill to help producers in these difficult circumstances?

Hassan : We seek to empower affected farmers, livestock breeders and fishermen for the initiative so they can resume their activities and overcome all these circumstances, because they have become unable to produce due to the surge in production costs.

We targeted farmers because 70% of Yemen's population lives in rural areas and 50% of the labour force works in agriculture, and [as a consequence of the war] this massive number of people have lost their income sources and the basic requirements of production.

This is the focus of the interventions and programmes implemented by UN humanitarian agencies, as we seek to boost all aspects of production that impact food security.

Al-Mashareq : What is the true picture of food security in Yemen?

Hassan : According to the latest integrated progress report on the status of food [security], close to 14 million [Yemenis] are food insecure, and almost half of them have entered the humanitarian emergency stage of food security, which is the stage that precedes the famine stage.

Al-Mashareq : What are the most important interventions implemented by the FAO in Yemen?

Hassan : In the fisheries sector, the interventions provide fishermen with boats, boat engines, nets, safety equipment and global positioning system (GPS) devices that pinpoint the location of fishermen and fishing sites, as well as training for producers on how to improve the value of their products, and training for fishermen associations on the local manufacture of fishing nets.

In the agricultural and livestock production sector, the interventions include the provision of seeds, fertilisers, solar panels and sera and medicines used in fighting animal epidemics and diseases. We also provide them with feed and livestock, which we distributed to affected livestock breeders, and will be distributing 9,000 heads of livestock to those affected in the coming period.

There also is a food security data programme funded by the EU and implemented by the FAO that serves all relief organisations and improves the capabilities of national institutions with regard to targeting the most affected areas in terms of food security.

Al-Mashareq : How do you reach the targeted recipients and those most affected by the war?

Hassan : We work in collaboration with Ministry of Agriculture offices in all directorates of the republic. The FAO, or its partners in the field, on occasion conduct surveys via distributed forms in order to reach the target recipients in some areas in the course of implementing direct interventions. These are based on surveys that identify the most affected, their needs and the type of intervention required.

Al-Mashareq : What are the difficulties you face in implementing your interventions and support of agricultural production?

Hassan : Every day that passes under the circumstances Yemen is currently experiencing brings additional needs and shortage of resources, accompanied by deterioration of the humanitarian situation, living conditions and food security, and more members of the producing segment become in need of food aid.

For this reason, we work to help producers and those who have lost their means of production to resume production, which will on the one hand help provide them with their food needs, and on the other stimulate the private sector, which has lost its activities that rely on that production.

This will revive the economy and help to create a multitude of job opportunities that will help improve the food security situation by ensuring the continuity of production and through the implementation of the necessary interventions.

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