Check out our FREE food commodity markets bulletin service - AGRIMARKETS - market analysis, prices and daily commentary @Agrimarkets

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Yemen! In the news unfortunately for all the wrong reasons, political strife and terrorism - the themes for our age. Geoff QB is in Sana’a looking at the rural development situation and suggesting what can be done for a country where 90% of the people live in abject poverty in rural areas, where the most remunerative crop is a mild narcotic shrub (“qat” or “khat” - Catha edulis), only a fraction of the land is cultivable (most is desert and mountain) and where a population of 22million will double in 20 years. Yemen imports its essential food stuffs and exports oil and gas, but the supply of those commodities is running out. Worse still, water for agriculture and social use is limited. Aquifers get recharged from sudden rainstorms in short periods so run-off is massive. Water catchment, conservation and distribution is the priority sector in rural development – but qat uses 30% of water available for agriculture with no nutritive value whatsoever. The other issue is terracing (see photo). Yemen has a terrace system thousands of years old. But it is being abandoned except where it can grow qat; farmers don’t find it worthwhile to grow food in such a labor intensive way. Yemen is probably one of the most challenging countries we’ve ever worked in (and that includes Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan!). Not to mention the risk of being shot or kidnapped if you even try and get to see the farmers!

Photo shows qat terraces in the Haraz Mountains