September 15, 2016

Yemen: An Integrated Approach to Agriculture is Urgently Needed

Yemen’s agricultural sector has been hit hard by ongoing conflict. Food insecurity is being felt throughout Yemen. In order to address these issues, SPARK, in partnership with the Agricultural Cooperative Union (ACU), delivered a high-profile Agricultural Cooperative Forum this summer.


Yemen’s political conflict continues to impact food imports, transportation networks and market supplies. This has had significant social and economic consequences for Yemen, which imports 95% of its food supply. Deepening insecurity has led to sharp increases in the price of food, pushing millions of Yemenis into poverty and hunger. The role of Yemen’s domestic food production is more important now than ever as two-thirds of Yemenis rely on the local agricultural sector for their livelihood.

One of SPARK’s main priorities in Yemen is to protect livelihoods of vulnerable rural communities and to build the capacity of local partners to ensure sustainability. This year SPARK has delivered a series of workshops in 15 states across Yemen for its local partner, ACU, which is Yemen’s largest NGO that focuses exclusively on agricultural development. This was to assist the ACU in designing a strategy that would support potential, struggling and already active agricultural projects. Much of SPARK’s activities focused on evaluating ACU’s projects and identifying how the ACU’s role as a local actor can be further advanced.

The results of SPARK’s assessments were presented at the Agricultural Cooperative Forum in August. This brought together an impressive 110 national and international organizations, which included international NGOs, such as Mercy Corps, Oxfam and Global Communities, as well as UN agencies, including the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). In addition, public sector institutions, such as the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, and financial institutions from the private sector, also attended.

The purpose of the forum was to bring together public and private institutions with civil society groups and to increase awareness of ACU’s capacity and needs, based on SPARK’s recent assessments. Following presentations on SPARK’s findings, participants agreed to set up an agri-based cluster. This would be led primarily by SPARK, FAO, ACU and Yemen’s Ministry of Agriculture and it would also include the input of other international and local NGOs. The cluster would structure and formalise coordination between multilateral bodies, INGOs, governments and local partners, who all have a shared vision of enhancing agricultural development in Yemen.

Indeed, the agricultural sector in Yemen is impacted by multilayered relations that involve significant overlap of international, national and domestic markets. Shifts in international attitudes and conflict dynamics is felt locally. Therefore, the need for an integrated approach that goes beyond private/public and national/international divide is of paramount importance.