By Jihan Anwer
This past week, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director General José Graziano da Silva signed an agreement of cooperation with Yemen after spending two days in Sana’a.
The draft of the FAO’s cooperation agreement with Yemen will be revised at the regional FAO office in Cairo, and a trust fund for the development of Yemen’s agriculture and fishing industries will be initiated. The United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are among the countries which have expressed interest in contributing to the project.
A mutual understanding about the ten major priorities to tackle was also reached by the FAO and Yemeni authorities. The priorities included responding to and dealing with the urgent humanitarian situation in Yemen; improving agricultural systems; and promoting sustainable water management.
The agreement will also focus on integrating the use of ‘aquaculture’ and the provision of incentives for the harvesting of coffee beans and date palms and honey cultivation.
Established in 1945, the UNFAO – United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization – is a technical support body which operates in over 130 countries. Present in Yemen since the late 1970s, the FAO remained operative here throughout the challenging events of 2011.
In implementing its agreement of cooperation with Yemen, the FAO will coordinate with other UN organizations, partner with the World Food Programme in emergencies and with the International Fund for Agricultural Development for investment.
da Silva stated that the Middle East and North Africa represented two of the regions where hunger figures were particularly high. He pointed to the correlation between food insecurity and conflict and affirmed FAO’s support for a nonviolent transition to democracy and underlined the need for peace and political stability in Yemen.
The Zero Hunger program was launched by da Silva in 2003; it’s estimated that, in the course of a decade, the project has assisted 24 million Brazilians in breaking free from poverty.
Another model implemented by the FAO which proved to be successful was the “Cash for Work” program in Somalia.
“In ten months, we were able to turn around the hunger rates,” said da Silva.
The major characteristic of the latter project was that it provided people with financial power, which enabled them to become consumers of local products. This produced a domino effect, resulting in the local vendors and farmers being able to sell their products and earn an income, even as conflicts plagued the nation.
“The cooperation agreement which we signed is designed to empower Yemen to feed its own people,” said the FAO Director General, who advocated the active involvement and participation of farmers if Yemen was to succeed in upgrading its agricultural methods and practices.
To conform to the FAO’s new mandate to not simply reduce hunger, but rather to eradicate it, the joint efforts of UN organizations, the Yemeni government, and farming and civil society organizations have been deemed necessary.
During his staying, da Silva met with President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, Prime Minister Mohammed Basindowa, Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation Farid Mujawar and Minister of Fisheries Awadh Al-Suqutri.