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The life-giving power of small seeds

Two men standing in a field of flowers/plants

Mohammed explains to CARE staff the many difficulties Yemeni farmers face

Mohammed explains to CARE staff the many difficulties Yemeni farmers face

With water, sun and soil, a tiny seed can grow into a majestic tree that gives us the gift of food. Every seed contains the potential to help feed communities and save lives. In Yemen, the majority of residents in rural areas rely on agriculture as their main source of income. Tragically, agricultural activities have considerably declined in the country due to insecurity as well as the unavailability of crucial materials and increased costs of fuel and water.

One half of all Yemenis are hungry, and do not know when they will next eat. The resilience of the Yemeni people has eroded over the years. In areas with a high level of food insecurity like Hajjah governorate, vulnerable households resort to negative coping behaviours such as running up debts, selling assets, limiting food portions and skipping meals. According to the UN families often eat nothing more than a bowl of rice or a cup of tea with a piece of bread.

Mohammed Shaban is a 26-year-old father of four children. He works as a farmer in the Aslam district of Hajjah governorate to the north of Yemen. “As food prices kept rising, I tried to expand my farmland to produce more vegetables,” says Mohammed. “Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it with my own basic tools and knowledge. I still remember how many cultivation seasons passed and I didn’t have any seeds or enough water to farm my land.”

A man holding a vegetable in a field
With CARE’s support, Mohammed could finally expand his farm and income

After six years of war, the humanitarian crisis in Yemen remains the worst in the world. The protracted conflict and resulting economic collapse, local currency fluctuation and soaring food and fuel prices, have increased the staggering levels of food insecurity across the country. More than 2.25 million children under the age of five and over a million cases of pregnant and lactating women are anticipated to suffer from acute malnutrition in 2021.

“When growing vegetables, seeds are the key to a successful crop,” says Mohammed. “As small as seeds may look, if they are not good quality we don’t have a good harvest. Also the costs of irrigation are a heavy burden on farmers’ shoulders. Farmers in my village depend on wells to water their crops. And the price of water varies according to the availability of fuel.”

Displacement and the crumbling irrigation systems forced many Yemeni farmers to abandon their farms and lose their main livelihood, which has had a devastating impact on their ability to feed their families. Farming households have witnessed a decline in cereal and vegetable production as a result of the lack of seeds, fertiliser and fuel to run water pumps for irrigation.

Luckily for Mohammed and farmers in Aslam district, with funding from the Yemen Humanitarian Fund (YHF), CARE intervened with a lifesaving recovery assistance project to improve food security levels in Hajjah governorate through supporting agriculture-based livelihoods.

A man loading crates of farm produce into a truck
Due to the improved seeds, Mohammed can sell his high-quality vegetables in the local market

The project trained farmers like Mohammed on best farming practices and new farming technologies. The farmers received improved zucchini, okra and tomato seeds, along with much-needed agricultural tools such as sickles, rakes, hoes and carts. And to help them survive until harvest time, the project provided farmers with cash assistance.

“In the past, I used to grow a small crop of tomato only,” says Mohammed. “Thanks to the magical seeds, this season I grew zucchini, okra and tomatoes. My farm is bigger now, and so is my income. Now I go more often to the central market to sell my high-quality crops, which makes me very proud. I hope that CARE continues to help Yemeni farmers and support the much-needed irrigation system in my village,” he concludes.

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