In the dry, rugged landscape of south-central Yemen, Anower Al Bosair tends tomatoes on the small farm that supports his large family. Though the region is severely affected by water shortages, Al Bosair’s tomatoes are thriving. With support from USAID’s Economic Recovery and Livelihoods Program (ERLP), Al Bosair adopted a drip-irrigation system and farming methods that are saving water and producing better yields and financial returns.
USAID’s ERLP addresses critical economic and livelihood stabilization challenges in Yemen by introducing simple, effective technologies and practices to small-scale farmers. The program expects to benefit 10,000 vulnerable rural households, supporting USAID’s commitment to a more food secure future for Yemen’s people and more climate-resilient systems for our planet.
“A lot of the farmers neighboring my land are now copying what I did. They come to the field, driven by curiosity to see the new technology and all the benefits I gained from it, and then apply it in their fields.”
—Anower Al Bosair, Yemeni farmer
Less than 2.5 percent of Yemen’s land is suitable for growing crops. Water is a precious resource, as the amount available per capita in Yemen is among the lowest in the world, and demand has grown by 50 percent over the past decade. The situation is being further aggravated by the effects of climate change, which are leading to increased episodes of drought and erratic rainfall.
Agriculture provides a livelihood for 70 percent of rural Yemenis, but it also accounts for 90 percent of their water consumption. Many farmers rely on inefficient water management methods such as flood and furrow irrigation, where only 20 percent is absorbed by the plants. Flood irrigation also contributes to soil erosion, salinization, and agricultural runoff, leading to pollution of water sources and higher rates of waterborne diseases.
Al Bosair previously used a flood irrigation system, pumping water from a well into his field. The cost of diesel fuel to run the pump was high, as were labor and fertilizer costs. The tomatoes were small, and nearly 15 percent of the crop spoiled before it could be sold.
ERLP technical experts introduced farmers like Al Bosair to easy-to-use technologies including drip-irrigation, greenhouses, practices to improve water retention and soil management, solar powered pumping systems, and cooling techniques to reduce post-harvest losses.
“The water productivity on my plot increased by 70 to 80 percent and I was able to bring down my fertilizer use from 250 to 30 kilos for the half-acre. The labor costs associated with weeding dropped, too, increasing my productivity and returns,” says Al Bosair.
For Al Bosair, the practical solutions introduced by USAID mean bigger profits. His post-harvest losses have dropped to just 2 percent, and he has reduced his operating costs by 50 percent.
The use of drip-irrigation technology is catching on, which is good news for Yemen’s scarce water resources.
“The technology offers a significant solution for water preservation,” says Abu Baker Omar, Head of Abyan’s Department of Agricultural Extension. “With a water savings rate of 60 to 70 percent, we can be far more hopeful that, in years to come, we will still have a sufficient water reserve in the region.”