The war that has been going on in Yemen for nearly eight years has caused abundant damage to the agricultural sector and farmers, including an increase in the prices of petroleum derivatives, pesticides, and fertilizers, which led to a decline in the level of agricultural production.
Farmer Abkar Al-Dhababi told Khuyut that: “My income was fairly stable before the outbreak of the war, but after the war and the resulting upsurge in the prices of fuel, fertilizers and pesticides and the decline in the value of the national currency, we were forced to abandon the agricultural profession. "
This season, Farmer Abkar and many other farmers turned to growing some vegetable crops, such as zucchini. However, he talked about many difficulties and challenges he has been facing, such as; the plant pests that hit this crop and the difficulty to compact it, and the resulting consequences of the deficiency of calcium that the plants need. Besides, the high cost of fertilizers continued to rise, amounting to approximately 30 thousand Yemeni riyals per liter which cannot be afford.
The agricultural sector in Yemen was exposed to several crises, as a result of the conflict that exhausted the country and its various sectors for eight years; number of central markets were destroyed, and roads between cities were closed by the parties to the conflict, which led to difficulty in transporting and marketing agricultural products to the consumers at reasonable costs.
Moreover, Al-Dhababi also confirmed in his statement that the ongoing war in the country, the siege, and the closure of main roads between cities have greatly affected the agricultural sector including the cessation of exporting operations to other governorates inside Yemen, and also the interruption of agricultural exports to Saudi Arabia as well as the closure of Haradh border crossing, which was considered the largest port for agricultural exports. Thus, it was closed after the outbreak of war and agricultural exports halted, which led to huge losses incurred by farmers and the agricultural sector in Yemen at large.
A reality that threatens the agricultural sector
Dozens of farmers have resorted to growing the “Qat” plant instead of agricultural products, to obtain quick financial returns that are rarely found in other crops, especially after the decline in the production of agricultural crops of all kinds of grains to about 52%, due to the intensification in fuel prices and the costs of production inputs.
On the other hand, Abdul Karim Qasim - President of the Bani Sinan Agricultural Cooperative Society, said in his talk to “Khuyut”: “One of the most prominent challenges facing us today is the expansion of the cultivation of the Qat tree at the expense of the farming of coffee trees. That is why we have paid great attention to supporting farmers to re-plant coffee along with some fruits by providing agricultural seedlings to farmers at minimal prices.”
Qasim added that conflict and climate change have negatively disturbed the agricultural sector in Yemen to the extent that it threatens the livelihoods of Yemenis. However, returning to coffee cultivation is a step in the right direction.
Government data indicate a sharp decline in the cultivated area to 5 thousand hectares, after its area was estimated at more than one million two hundred thousand hectares before the ongoing conflict in the country.
The suffering of farmers
The impacts of the war on the agricultural sector have exacerbated the suffering of many farmers in Taiz and Yemen in general, especially those who depend mainly on the revenues of this sector as their only source of income, so that each of them has become unable to obtain his daily food.
Agricultural researcher Abdul-Wali Al-Wafi told Khuyut: “The agricultural sector in Yemen was hit by several crises, as a result of the conflict that exhausted the country and its various sectors for eight years, as a number of central markets were demolished, and roads between cities were closed by the parties to the conflict, which led to difficulty in transporting and marketing agricultural products to the consumers at reasonable costs which is a key challenge for farmers.”
Al-Wafi continued his statement by saying: “As a result of impact of the armed conflict on Yemen in general, and on Taiz Governorate in particular, which paid the large cost of the war since its outbreak until today in addition to the unjust siege imposed on it by the Houthis, most of the Taiz farmers were forced to flee from their agricultural areas and move to safer areas, leaving all their possessions, and this is a major reason for the decline of agriculture in the governorate.”
Further, Al-Wafi added that the damage to the agricultural sector led to the reluctance of many farmers to practice the agricultural profession, in addition to the cessation of the export of agricultural products, and the resulting effects on food security in the country, the rise in prices of food commodities, and their unavailability in the markets on a regular basis, especially Grains, vegetables, fruits, and even meat and fish. Not to mention the inability of the consumer to buy as a result of weak purchasing power, lack of cash flow, high foreign exchange rates, as well as the non-payment of employee salaries for years.”
He explained that "the effects resulting from the current crisis on the agricultural sector are very large, whether directly or indirectly, as some of these impacts affected agricultural facilities, such as coffee nurseries, due to the high prices of petroleum derivatives and agricultural inputs like seeds and fertilizers, and their unavailability in the market."
Al-Wafi concludes his speech by saying, “The recurring crises of oil derivatives throughout the years of war and the continuous escalation in its prices is another challenge encountered by Yemeni farmers, as it contributed to the damage of crops during the first months of the crisis. As a result of all of this, many farmers abandoned the profession and turned to Qat cultivation and other profitable professions with high returns.”