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How cash-for-work activities support the recovery and resilience of farmers in Abyan, Yemen

A large group of workers wearing bright yellow protective gear work together to move rocks.

Workers build a gabion to direct the flow of torrents into farmlands. Photo: Bassam Saleh/CARE.

Workers build a gabion to direct the flow of torrents into farmlands. Photo: Bassam Saleh/CARE.

In Ahwar District of Abyan Governorate, southern Yemen, residents depend on agriculture as their main source of livelihood. Years of conflict and neglect of the irrigation system and dam infrastructure have led to a significant decline in agricultural activity in the area, forcing farmers to abandon their farms. In addition to significant climate change, agricultural production has been severely affected. Although farmers have made great efforts to protect their farms and improve their standard of living, their efforts are still insufficient due to their limited capacities.

“High food prices and water scarcity have meant that many farmers have left their farms in search of other sources of income,” says Munif Saleh, CARE’s Food Security and Livelihoods Field Engineer. “Farmers in the area couldn’t use rainwater to irrigate their land, and rainwater was often wasted due to the lack of proper irrigation infrastructure such as gabions. This led to the degradation of agricultural land, affecting farmers’ incomes and food security levels in the area. Gabions help harness rainwater and floodwater to irrigate farms and recharge groundwater,” he adds.

To address this challenge, CARE, with funding from the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), and in coordination with local authorities in the governorate, intervened in Ahwar District through its cash-for-work activities, which help residents build key community assets and earn much-needed income.

Workers build a gabion to direct the flow of torrents into farmlands. Photo: Bassam Saleh/CARE.

In 2023, 140 residents were selected to work on constructing two gabions in Hisn-Mohammed area in Ahwar district. “After consulting with local authorities in the area, we decided to build a 400 m3 gabion in the Obar-Maleek canal and a 300 m3 gabion in the Obar-Aldwaly canal to make the best use of the rainwater that flows through these canals. The project participants also cleaned the irrigation canals of trees and sediments that obstruct water flow,” says Munif.

Saleh Abdullah, a farmer from Ahwar District, was delighted to participate in the construction of gabions in his area. He says: “Like the rest of the people in my area, I was affected by the rise in food prices. I was considering leaving my land and moving to another area where I could earn a living. But this project came and changed many things. The wages I earned from the construction work helped me buy food for my family, and I also became a skilled worker in rock and construction work. I look forward to seeing water coming to my farm after years of drought, thanks to the new gabions.”

Saleh, along with other dedicated project participants, took the initiative to build a remarkable third gabion in Obar-Assy canal in Hisn-Mohammed area. The project provided the materials for the third gabion, while the participants volunteered their time and effort to build it. The 450 mgabion is expected to benefit 400 acres of agricultural land, and over 5,500 acres of agricultural land throughout Ahwar District is expected to benefit from the construction of the three gabions.

Project participants took the initiative to build a third gabion in Obar-Assy area. Photo: Bassam Saleh/CARE.
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