Agriculture is a key sector in the Yemeni economy, providing the main source of employment for 54% of the population and producing 17.5% of the gross domestic product in 2010. The major agricultural products include fruits (999,256 t), vegetables (1,032,414 t), and cereals (863,934 t), but productivity and production are low and rarely sufficient to meet domestic demand. The financial crisis in 2009, and the subsequent drop in oil prices, and current political turmoil has driven the country to the brink of economic collapse, especially the agricultural research activities. Among the many problems in Yemen, food insecurity is the most serious.
Plant Protection Sub-Sector
The plant protection sub-sector, in Yemen, has been severely affected by the tragic events. The Tehama Development Authority and three agricultural research stations, including departments of plant protection, and, one honeybee center, have been destroyed and/or totally looted. The financial crisis has hit the entire agricultural sub-sector stopping most (99%) of current foreign/international and local funded research and activities. In addition, the government has not paid the salaries of most of the employees including the agricultural sector, and educational sector. Meanwhile, there is an increase in the cost of agricultural inputs due to an increase in the exchange rate of foreign currencies, and corruption.
What is the solution?
- Financial crisis- Funding must be allocated for salaries and the replacement of destroyed facilities of the plant protection sub-sector. This could be performed by the re-building of infrastructures, supporting the revitalization of programs and activities, and to encourage investment in the field of plant protection.
- Education level: The educational level of farmers in Yemen is generally quite low; the illiteracy rate in Yemen is 48%. This has resulted in the use of incorrect practices to control pests and manage honeybees, using extensive application of pesticides, and a lack of awareness among farmers of the importance of integrated pest management. For this reason, we must initiate a vast awareness campaign before attempting to promote IPM packages.
- Invasive exotic, migratory and cross-border insects and endemic diseases-: The following are major threats to production and management strategies must be developed.
The red palm weevil, Rhynchophorus ferrugineus Oliv. was first recorded in Yemen in 2013 and has recently become one of the major date palm pests in Yemen. The infestation is currently in three directorates in Hadhramout governorate (Eastern plateau zone), a major area for palm cultivation. An emergency project has been launched by FAO in Yemen to manage this pest.
The South American tomato leafminer, Tuta absoluta Meyrick, first reported in Yemen in 2012 has been recorded on 304 farms in 88 districts. About 70 percent of the tomato crop examined was infested with the pest. Without an effective control program, potential damage to Yemen’s vegetable crop could exceed $300 million.
Dubas bug, Ommatissus lybicus Bergevin is a serious sucking pest of date palm. It was recorded in 2002. It has disrupted production in the eastern coast and plateau zones. It causes direct and indirect damage to palm and cultivated trees under date palm.
Wheat rust disease, Ug99 is a lineage of wheat stem rust spread from Africa, Uganda-Kenya to Yemen in 2006. In the key wheat growing areas of the country, during October 2010 to March 2011, stem rust was widespread in the highlands and western areas. Due to the current conflict the current status of stem rust races in the conflict-ridden areas of Yemen are unknown.
Desert locust. Locust monitoring, early warning and preventive control measures are believed to have played an important role in the decline in the frequency and duration of plagues since the 1960s; however, today climate change is leading to more frequent, unpredictable and extreme weather and poses fresh challenges on how to monitor and respond to locust activity. The conflict is severely hampering control operations and the locust thus poses a potential threat to crops in the region.
- Apiculture- Honey is a high value crop in Yemen. In 2013, production was 2,614 t, and revenue about 19,611 million2. Apiculture in Yemen faces many problems, and productivity is the lowest as compared to other Arab countries. In the conflict-ridden areas, the situation is the worst it has ever been. This is due to the limitation and/or restriction of beekeepers’ mobility between locations of bee forage plants, targeting apicultures and beekeepers’ by airstrikes or looting, and high prices of apicultural inputs and transport.
- Protected cultivation- In recent years, protected cultivation (plastic tunnels) has significantly increased, even in the conflict-ridden areas. They are most often used in the northern, central and southern highland zones of Yemen. They are used extensively for cash crops, mainly cucumbers, tomatoes, and strawberries. Protected cultivation could be the agricultural future and one of important technologies to reduce food insecurity and improve the incomes of rural households in Yemen. However, here is a lack of information on the proper use protected cultivation and the problems that farmers face such as the extensive use of pesticides.
- Quarantine- Activation of plant quarantine measures at functioning ports, instead of destroyed ports, is very important in the current situation as quarantine is the first defense against exotic insects and diseases.
7. Pesticides- Pesticides are extensively and incorrectly used to control pests, particularly on khat/gat and vegetables (mostly under protected cultivation). About 1,152, 963 t of pesticides were imported during 2013. Pesticides cause a negative impact on humans and the environment resulting in 16,000-17,000 cancer cases each year in Yemen. In addition, agricultural exports are sometimes rejected because of a high value of pesticide residue. Therefore, increasing the monitoring measures and revisions in the pesticide regulations, and farmer training are necessary.
Yemen’s agricultural sector has significantly shrunk mainly due to the current conflict and this has negatively affected the plant protection sub-sector. The investment in the plant protection sub-sector is one of the keys to increase agricultural production and productivity resulting in food security and to improve the livelihood of Yemenis. The emerging issues 1)the financial crisis, 2) educational level, and 3) management of exotic insects and diseases and honeybees are high priorities that must be given consideration and urgent intervention by the plant protection sub-sector.
Maher A. Moraiet Sana’a, Yemen- April 16, 2017
Division of Entomology
Department of Plant Protection
Agriculture Research Station – Seiyun
Agricultural Research and Extension Authority
P.Box :9041 Seiyun, Hadramout, Yemen
Destruction of the Agricultural Research Station, Bajl- Hodeidah
Direct shelling of of screen houses at Imran
Direct shelling of agricultural research fields – Yarm – Ab
The scene of destruction and looting of the Agricultural Research Station in Bajl- Hodeidah – Alcod, after the war with Qada in Abyan, Yemen
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