Support for land and irrigation helps stave off debts, brightens prospects for Yemeni farmer

January 8, 2020

Lahj, Yemen – The Arabic proverb, “Determination is key to everything,” finds resonance in the story of Adel, a 44-year-old villager from Lahj, a southern Yemeni governorate. Adel descends from a poor family that depends on agriculture as their main source of income.

“I learned about the intricacies of farming from my father whose father passed the knowledge on to him.” Adel said. “I love farming. It teaches patience and emphasizes the importance of working to harvest the result of our work.”

Before the war, Adel used to work as a farmer on a daily-wage basis in a number of farms where he was known for his solid experience and reputation for hard work. The money Adel earned allowed him a decent living and enabled him to support his wife to continue her college studies in biology at Aden University.

“My income was somehow stable and I was living a decent life but after the outbreak of the war, the increase in the price of fuel and devaluation of the national currency forced the landowners to abandon commercial cultivation on many agricultural lands.

They replaced the skilled farmers with close relatives who would accept low wages,” Adel says.

Being jobless was hard for Adel. He was forced to take debts from friends and his brothers supported him financially during those tough times. More than once, he asked his wife to sell some of her jewels so that they could keep putting food on the table.

“In those days of acute financial hardships, my wife and I quarreled several times when I asked her to sell her jewels. I even asked her to abandon her academic education because I could not afford the tuition and transportation fees for her. She is excellent in her studies and I highly value education because I had to quit school when I was in sixth grade. We were both depressed,” he explained.

All that is in the past now.

The funding from the World Bank, and the partnership between the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Small and Micro Enterprise Promotion Service (SMEPS), has resulted in supporting 199 farmers in Lahj in which Adel was among those who benefited. This was under the Yemen Emergency Crisis Response Project (YECRP).

Adel was provided with a drip irrigation system, seeds, fertilizers and start-up capital to rent a patch of land near a water well. The received support is worth USD 1,500. The

grant that Adel received has created a virtuous income opportunity for him, He rented a patch of unutilized agricultural land and installed the drip irrigation system. He has been able to produce green pepper, arugula and parsley. I’ve made good profits, especially from the arugula and parsley harvest.”

UNDP and SMEPS have supported Adel with technical skills so that he makes the most of the grant through regular mentoring visits from agronomists.

“The misconceptions about drip irrigation systems I used to have were gone. Some of the farmers still think that drip irrigation deprives the plants of suitable quantities of water, but in fact it does not”, Adel observes.

Adel has noticed that the plants cultivated with the use of drip irrigation have a more vivid and flourishing shape than those sown in the traditional way. It saves water and time in a big way. Instead of taking 12 hours for watering half an acre, now it takes him only six hours to water a whole acre of land,” he explained.

Adel has now started marketing his own products through packaging them and transporting them to the main wholesale market. He explained that he makes over 250 USD monthly, which has enabled him to pay back most of his debts and purchase back his wife’s jewels.

Adel plans to buy his own agricultural field one day that is close to a water source.

“I was able to buy an electrical generator for my house, a motorcycle to commute between work and home quicker. But, by far, my greatest achievement so far has been in supporting my wife to continue her studies. She will be in the fourth and last academic year soon. She will then get a job after she graduates.”

“I owe it to those who supported me to overcome the difficulties I went through,” Adel says.

Funded and supported by the World Bank, the Yemen Emergency Crisis Response Project (YECRP) is implemented by the Social Fund for Development (SFD) and the Public Works Project (PWP) in partnership with UNDP. The USD $400 million project provides economic stimuli in the form of large cash-for-work projects, support to small businesses, and labor-intensive repairs of socio-economic assets, benefiting vulnerable local households and communities across Yemen.