Archive | December, 2010

Interest-free loans to help farmers combat food insecurity, but is this enough for Yemen?

16 Dec

Henning Baur, principal advisor of food security at gtz, said Yemen needs collective effort to stop food insecurity. Photo by Malak Shaher

Malak ShaherPublished:16-12-2010

SANA’A, Dec. 12 – Yemeni farmers will have access to interest-free loans totalling around USD 200,000 to ensure food security in the country, confirmed an official from the Ministry of Local Administration.Yemen’s Minister of Local Administration, Rashad Al-Alimi, said that food security also depended on many other factors. The most important factor was water used for irrigating agricultural crops, he said.

“Food security is a concern for the region and Yemen is one of the countries that is most affected by the global increase in food prices,” said Al-Alimi.

He was a guest speaker at a two-day symposium about food security in Yemen and the challenges it poses. The event was held at Sana’a University’s Faculty of Agriculture on Sunday, Dec. 12. The symposium was organised by the university’s Post Graduate Studies and Scientific Research Center and the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ). Its aim was to increase the possibilities of a successful strategy to end food insecurity in Yemen.

The Minister for Agriculture and Irrigation, Mansoor Al-Hawshabi, said that the government was sparing no effort in increasing the productivity of crops in order to decrease food insecurity in Yemen. He said the government would continue to assist farmers in obtaining loans to grow crops for sale.

Al-Hawshabi said that the ministry expected farmers to produce 1.2 million tons of crops this year, and that crop production had increased by 20 percent during the past three years.

Despite this, around 32 percent of Yemenis face food insecurity. This means that one third of Yemenis – or 7.5 million citizens – do not have enough food, according to a report published by the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation in June this year. The report was conducted with assistance from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

A survey by the World Food Program (WFP) this year confirmed that food insecurity affects rural citizens in Yemen the most. The program states that food security only exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.

Qat consuming Yemen’s water

The Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation confirmed in June this year that qat irrigation consumes 30 percent of Yemen’s water. About 90 percent of Yemen’s water is used for crop irrigation.

The ministry also stated that Yemen should sharply reduce its qat consumption so that it maintains its current level of food production.

Al-Alimi said that qat farming should be reduced and that Yemen should apply rain harvesting techniques, rather than continue to use decreasing ground water sources.

“Before outlining the solution for food insecurity, we should realize that we have a real problem regarding qat. It consumes the country’s ground water,” he said.

“Irrigation is directly related to food security. Yemen needs a political decision to reduce qat consumption. The president [of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh] now only chews qat on a few specific occasions.”

Population, climate change and food insecurity

Henning Baur, principal advisor for food security at GTZ, said that there will be a greater demand for food as the population increases. He said that in Yemen, the population increases by three percent annually, and thus food production should also increase by at least three percent.

Baur outlined the challenges of decreasing food insecurity in Yemen. These include the rapidly increasing population and global warming, which will mean that crops will need more water for irrigation. In addition, Yemen will also need to import oil in the future. This means that more money will be spent on oil and less on food.

Baur said that within one generation, or 25 years, the size of the population will double and ground water resources will half. However, he said that these challenges should not prevent Yemen from ending food insecurity.

“Everybody should work collectively in their different institutions because this issue concerns us all,” said Baur.

Clemens Breisinger, from the Development Strategy and Governance Division at the IFPRI, said that as Yemen’s agricultural output remains flat, agricultural exports have fallen. Food prices have increased and Yemen is considered to have a very low level of food security.

But Breisinger agreed with Baur that collective efforts were required by many institutions. He said that the strategy outlined by the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation 18 months ago included other ministries as food security is a national concern. The Water and Irrigation Ministry will promote rain water harvesting instead of using ground water, the Health Ministry will encourage family planning, and the Tax Authority wants to collect more taxes to increase the national budget.


Yemeni coffee needs Yemeni cuppers

9 Dec
Trainer Manuel Diaz collecting the sample forms from the cupping participants. Diaz is from Mexico and has over 20 years of experience in the coffee industry.
Photo by Malak Shaher
Yemen Times
SANA’A, Dec. 9 – A large group of young men and women sat in front of 26 plastic cups of water, mixed with different ingredients. The task was to test their genetic abilities in identifying the different flavors.This tasting exercise was the first of its kind in Yemen. Of the 80 participants, only 25 passed this test. The successful candidates will eventually become Yemen’s first batch of coffee cuppers.Coffee cupping is the technical process through which coffee is graded based on its quality and origins.

Small and Micro Enterprise Promotion Service Agency (SMEPS), affiliated to the government’s Social Fund for Development was behind the tasting experience.

SMEPS carried out the cupping training as a first step of a year-long process to create young Yemeni coffee cuppers, certified by the International Speciality Coffee Institute.

“The trainees do not need have any prior experience in coffee cupping but we preferred to select people who already have experience in coffee,” said Mervat Haidar, senior project officer at SMEPS.

Ismail Faez, 23, was excited to be part of the training. As he immersed himself in the different varieties of mixtures, trying out his tastebuds, he acknowledged that this training will help him perform his job better as he works in a coffee shop.

“The most important thing is that they should have a ‘genetic’ ability to taste the faintest coffee flavor,” said cupping trainer Manuel Diaz.

Diaz is from Mexico and has over 20 years experience in the coffee industry.

“With this training we can have local experts who are able to grade the coffee produced locally and hence control the pricing and originality,” explained Haidar.

Currently, when Yemeni companies need to export coffee, they have to send samples to the clients who grade the coffee and determine its price.

Iglal Al-Baqiri, 28, works as a sales agent for Al-Ezzi coffee company. She was also a participant in the training and was 100 percent sure that this is what is needed to boost the coffee market in Yemen.

“As Yemenis, we have been famous for our coffee for ages. We have to have local cuppers to identify the grade and price,” said Haidar.

“Therefore Yemeni coffee needs Yemeni cuppers.”

This training is one of many steps SMEPS is carrying out to revive Yemen’s reputation as the homeland of coffee, especially since it is the only country in the world which grows 100 percent of the sun-dried natural Arabica coffee.

Next week, Yemen will host the second International Arabica Naturals Conference following the first one held in Mexico three years ago.

“The conference and the cupping training are two parts of a larger project, which also includes a study on coffee productivity in Yemen,” said Wesam Qaid, director of SMEPS.

The productivity study includes examining the productivity of certain types of Yemeni coffee and finding ways to improve it.

Coffee cupping

The cupping processes involve defining the coffee quality by tasting it, smelling it and observing the color and shape of the coffee beans. Coffee tasters, or cuppers, have to be able to recognize the slightest differences between coffee types in flavor, smell, color, texture and appearance.

A professional cupper can determine age, quality, roasting and the place of production of the coffee.

In Yemen, coffee is grown between 900 and 2000 meters above sea level. The Yemeni coffee boasts a superior lingering taste and an exceptional resistance which is rated 93 out of 100, according to experts from the International Coffee Organization (ICO).

In Yemen, there are over 15 coffee types, which differ depending on where they are grown and the appearance of the coffee beans.

The different types of Yemeni coffee take their names either from where they grown, such as Al-Matari or Al-Harazi, or from the shape of the coffee beans such as Al-Tofahi (apple-like).

The first coffee type known to the world was the Mocha coffee which was exported from Mocha port in Hodeida, a city by the Red Sea.

Amira Al-Hakimi filling in the forms in which 26
types of water mixtures were identified. Amira
made it to the next round.

Single educated Yemeni women hard at work to secure opportunities

9 Dec
More young women in Yemen are enrolling at universities and getting job opportunities. Female students at universities are up from 20 percent in 1990 to 37.5 percent in 2010. Photo by Sadeq Al-WesabiBy: Malak Shaher

Yemen Times


For Abeer Abdulla, a university student in her early twenties, completing her education and finding a job are more important than getting married.The dream of the majority of young women in Yemen, especially those who are educated, has shifted from getting married to getting a job.

This has increased the number of women in the labor force. Now, 63 percent of women in urban areas are either already working, or plan to in the future, according to a survey conducted by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES).

The survey data was collected from 1,993 women and 508 men in June and July 2010.

“I want to be financially independent. For me education and work are more important than marriage,” said Abeer Ahmad.

“Most of the time when a woman gets married in Yemen, she is asked by her husband to stop studying if she is a student, or stop working if she is an employee.”

While few women in Yemen participate in the workforce, more are interested in pursuing a career and this is particularly true among younger women. Women who study at university and engage in paid work are more likely to have the freedom to leave home, have greater financial security and access to credit, according to the survey.

The study mentioned that labor force participation among Yemeni women, both educated and uneducated, is extremely low, particularly when compared to men.

According to the Head of the Human Resources Department at the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation, Abdulla Hazza’, women constituted 10.2 percent of the paid workforce in 2010. This is up from 9.6 percent in 2004, and 7 percent in 1999.

The survey by IWPR and IFES pointed out that participation in the workforce is higher among more educated women. Around 21 percent of women with high school and 48 percent of women with a university degree are working in the public or private sector.

Despite cultural traditions that restrict women entering the workforce in Yemen, factors such as income, access to educational facilities, and marital status may also influence a women’s choice to work. Around 38 percent of women in rural areas who were included in the survey intended to pursue a career.

“Women in Yemen are working hard to gain opportunities, along with men, to help their families and communities,” said Jane Henrici, study director from the IWPR. “More Yemeni women are getting formal education than in the past, and this seems to help with other opportunities.”

Female students represented 37.5 percent of students at universities in 2008, up from 20.5 percent in 1990, according to UNDP’s 2010 Millennium Development Goals Report.

Women with a higher level of education also tend to have greater access to health care. Around 51 percent of women with lower than a primary school education have access to health care. In contrast, 67 percent of women with a university degree or higher have access to health care.

IWPR and IFES conducted the survey research as part of a project on ‘The Status of Women in the Middle East and North Africa’ with funding from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

Book review, “I was a doctor in Yemen”

6 Dec

By: Malak ShaherPublished:06-12-2010

Unlike most countries in the 1950s, which were to some extent developing, Yemen was still stuck in a darkness of ignorance and disease. Into this almost unheard of country came a French anthropologist and doctor, who fell in love with the country and its people.

“I was a doctor in Yemen,” was written by Claudie Fayien and published in France in 1955. It was translated into Arabic by Muhsen Al-Eni in 1958, and released in Lebanon in 1960.

Claudie Fayien worked in Yemen during the period from 1951 to 1952, and found a country living in the darkest of dark eras. The French doctor said that the world should know about Yemen. At that time only a few people in France had even heard of Yemen.

Fayien came to Yemen during the rule of Imam Ahmad Hamid Al-Deen, a ruler who kept the north of Yemen away from any means of development.

“I used to be a doctor in Yemen” is full of vivid descriptions about the humanitarian experience of the people in Yemen. This very detailed book has immortalized itself as one of the most important travel books of the region.

Before the French anthropologist came to Yemen she knew nothing about the country. She writes: “I confess, I knew nothing about Yemen. I had no idea even where it was. I thought I would go to a magical land.” Nevertheless, she left her husband and three children to explore the country herself.

In the book Fayien speaks of the many events that happened to her during her travels. She said, “Later I realized that Yemen is more than just a country where many imamates ruled.” Yemen did not have any diplomatic representatives before 1950.

In his foreword to the book, translator Muhsen Al-Eni said that Fayan showed her love for the Yemen’s people and her writing was clear of the malicious talk about Yemenis that most foreigners indulged in.

According to Al-Eni, the book was so popular in France that it was translated into other six languages, including English, Italian, German, Swedish and Hungarian. She did however, suffer criticism from the French public for leaving her family to travel to a country virtually no one had heard of.

For the French anthropologist, Yemen, as a country and people, was extremely rich in events and she found it a beautiful country to explore. And despite the desperate situation under which most Yemenis lived, she found their nature very beautiful. She commented that the terraces in the mountains showed the magnificent mind of the Yemeni people who made them thousands of years ago.

A letter for the Imam

Many small things astonished Fayien and are detailed at length in the book. For example, she was surprised that a letter of permission from the imam should be written from the middle of the page. Apparently the imam did not like to have his signature below that of the applicant, it had to be above.

She wanted to reveal how this example represented the life of Yemenis, who were ruled completely by an imam who gave them no window of freedom whatsoever. “The imam was concerned with the most important things in the country down to the most ridicules things, like whether or not a teacher in one of the remote areas needed ink.”

The situation of women

Women received a considerable amount of attention in Fayien’s book, and she was deeply concerned how miserable their lives were in terms of education, health and their treatment from their husbands.

For a proper Yemeni woman in that time, it was considered inappropriate for strangers to hear her voice. So when Fayien went to diagnose the medical condition of a woman, she had to talk to a translator, who in turn had to talk to the husband, who would then talk to his wife. Any replies from the wife in turn had to be relayed back through the husband, and the translator to Fayien.

She stated that the situation for women was really miserable. They had no right to an education and indeed could face death from their husband if he decided to take up another woman to replace her. Yet reading between the lines you can feel her sincere feelings towards the Yemenis, who she said were very nice and eager to learn.

“Hereby I am leaving my Yemeni friends, thinking of their sufferings and their honest feelings to change their miserable situation, because they are a free and dignified people,” says Fayien. “I am thinking of the small children who were signing to me when I was leaving, Sharifa, the girl who wanted to learn how to read and write, of the old man who stood under my window to hear a symphony and of the nurses who wanted to relieve people’s suffering.”

At the very end of the book, Fayien reveals her deep sadness for a woman who died in agony after giving birth. Fayien, who could not help the woman, said the only thing she could do for her now was to immortalize her in this book.

The French doctor was granted Yemeni nationality in 1990 by President Ali Abdulla Saleh. She passed away in April 2001

Building the minds of Yemen’s orphans

6 Dec
Orphans at Dar Al-Aytam read books in their new library, established on Thursday.

Malak Shaher

Yemen Times


“We are the seeds of this country, we will make our country prosper, we love knowledge and we spread love everywhere.”

With those words hundreds of orphans hailed the arrival of a new library to Dar Al-Aytam, a state funded orphanage in Sana’a. The children were listening to a song and as it drew to an end they said in one collective and excited voice, “I love books.”

The new library, established on Thursday, is part of the “I love my book” campaign, run by Global Change Makers, a British Council initiative.

This year, the campaign has targeted three public schools, one private school, a school for special needs students and the Orphan House in Sana’a, according to Elham Al-Quhali, a project assistant at the British council.

“We found that the children are thirsty for knowledge and reading,” Al-Quhali told the Yemen Times. “They want to be pushed forward and we want to continue this program. We urge other organizations to join forces with us.”

At the library’s opening, small boys were pushing each other and rushing to get inside the new library. Hamza Mohammad, 9, could barely contain his excitement. “These books are beautiful,” he said with a sparkle in his eyes. With books I learn new things.”

Mohammed Al-Shami, the head of Dar Al-Aytam, stressed the significance of this ‘generous gift.’

“This library has added greatly to our school, which now contains many more subjects for learning,” Al-Shami said. “With the establishment of this library, our orphans will occupy a place in others minds. People will be able to imagine them reading.”

The campaign is coordinated by young members of Global Changemakers and financed by the British council.

Global Changemakers formed in 2007, is a British Council initiative, aimed at providing support for young social entrepreneurs and community activities.

“Books build the minds of small children,” said Haitham Al-Thobabi, 22, a member of the Global Changemakers.

The campaign also involves establishing a reading club and targeting schools and the publishing of a quarterly magazine. The magazine will consist of the children’s writings and be distributed in the schools and supporting organizations.

It will create cooperation between teachers at the school libraries where students will be introduced to new books and encouraged to read.

“Most children in Yemen are not used to reading and the only books they do read belong to the school,” said Najeba Haddad, Yemen’s deputy minister of culture.

Illiteracy rates are increasing among small children in Yemen, according to a recent report by the Yemeni Shura Council. Around two million children are not enrolled in school and a large number of students drop out during their early years of schooling in order to work to support their families.

According to Hadad, it is important to instill a motivation to read in children from a young age who otherwise wouldn’t develop this important habit.

“I encourage the efforts of such campaigns because they involve more children and make reading interesting for them,” she added.

Boys and girls sing a song about the importance of reading at the library opening day.  TY photo by Malak Shaher

Police arrest human rights activist in Amran

2 Dec
Government soldiers arrested two family members and a human rights activist in Sa’ada on Wednesday in connection with the arrest of 25 Zaidis on Nov.26Malak ShaherPublished:02-12-2010

SANA’A, Dec.1 — Human rights activist Mohammad Al-Moayad was detained by police in Amran yesterday when he went to the police station to enquire why Zaidis were arrested last Friday.Police arrested at least 25 Zaidis on Friday when they commemorated Al-Ghadeer day, a Shiite religious ceremony. Al-Moayad is a member of the Yemeni Democratic Organization for Defending Human Rights that had obtained permission from the Supreme Court to investigate police charges against the Zaidis.

Ali Al-Dailami, head of the human rights organization, told the Yemen Times yesterday that they “went to Amran security office to find out why Zaidis were arrested when they were celebrating Al-Ghadeer day.

“We were astonished when the head of the security office came out angrily and threw stones at us. After that Al-Moayad and two of the detainees relatives were arrested,” said Al-Dailami.

He said that although those arrested on Friday shared the same Islamic affiliation to the Zaidi sect, this did not necessarily mean that they had any connection with the Houthis.

Abdulsalam Al-Makhethi, 31, said that his 60-year-old father and brother were also arrested. He said that his brother was taken into custody when he went to the police station to ask about their father.

“They have nothing to do with the Houthis. They were arrested without committing any crime. My father is a Zaidi imam and was dancing on the celebration day,” said Al-Makhethi.

The Yemen Times contacted the head of the state prosecution but he said that he was not allowed to reveal any information on the incident.

The Yemeni Democratic Organization for Defending Human Rights this week condemned the arrest of unarmed people who were participating in religious events.

Ali Al-Assi, a lawyer with the human rights organization, said that the government’s reaction to the Houthis was not solving the conflict.

“Unfortunately, the more the government exaggerates its security precautions and arrests people just to be ‘safe’, the more these people eventually turn out to help Houthis in their war against the goverment,” said Al-Assi.

The Yemeni government has been at war with Houthis since 2004 when the rebel group declared they wanted an independent state in Sa’ada.

Al-Dailami said that the Houthis were a minority of only 200 persons in 2004 but more people were joining their cause.

Violence in Sa’ada has escalated since Nov. 15 when clashes between pro-government tribes and Houthis erupted. At least 26 people were killed and another 12 were injured.

More Zaidi arrests, second car bomb in northern Yemen

1 Dec
Malak Shaher
Yemen Times


SANA’A, Nov. 28 — As many as 25 persons were arrested in Amran on Sunday during the Zaidi commemoration of Al-Ghadeer day, confirmed Ali Al-Dailami, executive manager of the Yemeni Democratic Organization for Defending Human Rights.

This human rights organization condemned the arrest of unarmed civilians whose only ‘crime’ was to participate in a religious event.

“Unfortunately the government accuses everybody who is Zaidi of being a Houthi,” Al-Dailami told the Yemen Times.

The organization condemned the arrests in a statement on its website, saying that Zaidis were being accused of being part of the political conflict in the north because they shared a common religious belief with the Houthi rebels.

Another three persons were arrested in Jahna, Sa’ada, said Al-Dailami.

Second car bomb in three days

In another day of violence in the north, at least two people were killed and eight injured in a car bomb attack on a Houthi funeral convoy in Sahar, Sa’ada, on Friday.

The mourners were on their way to the funeral of Bader Al-Deen Al-Houthi, the Houthi’s elderly spiritual leader, who died of natural causes on Thursday. The 86-year-old reportedly suffered from asthma.

A bomb in an unmanned vehicle, not a suicide bomber as previously reported, attacked the convoy, Houthi spokesman Saleh Habra told the Yemen Times.

Bader Al-Deen Al-Houthi was the father to both the current Houthi commander, Abdulmalek Al-Houthi, and the founder of the Houthi movement, Husain Al-Houthi, killed in the first Sada’a war in 2004. Husain Al-Houthi formed the movement as a rebellion against the Yemen government in the same year, demanding an independent state in Sa’ada.

Friday’s bombing was the second in three days targeting Zaidis. At least 20 people were killed in Al-Jawf in an attack on a religious procession of Shiites on Wednesday. The procession was travelling to Sa’ada to mark Al-Ghadeer day to commemorate Ali Bin Abi Taleb, a key figure of the Shiite Houthi faith. Al-Ghadeer day falls on the 18th Thu Al-Hajja, in the Islamic year. Zaidis spread the celebrations over the days before and after.

Despite claims that Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsular (AQAP) was responsible for the attacks, AQAP has not claimed responsibility for either of the two explosions.

The Houthi media office claimed that the US government planned one or both of the bomb attacks, an accusation the US embassy in Sana’a denied in a statement on Sunday.

The first attack turned out to be targeting tribes from Al-Jawf who wanted to participate in the Al-Ghadeer day whilst the second attack targeted Houthis, said Al-Dailami.

Arresting Zaidi people

Sa’ada has witnessed relative calm since the Houthis signed a cease-fire with the government in February 2010.

However, violence in Sa’ada has been escalating since clashes between the pro-government tribes and the Houthis broke out on November 15.

These clashes killed at least 20 and injured another nine. Further violence, between the Houthis and the pro-government tribes, broke out in Bani Owaibary to the north of Sa’ada, killing six and injuring three.

The war in Sa’ada started in 2004 when Houthis proclaimed their aim to seek autonomy from state for the Zaidi Shiite population. Six wars have taken place in Sa’ada since 2004.

The conflict has spilled over into neighboring Saudi Arabia and has led to the destruction of the infrastructure of Sa’ada, including schools and hospitals. It has also displaced more than 300,000 people of which only 20,000 have returned to their homes.