By Fakhri al-Arashi
Abdulrahman Mutaher is known as a friend to farmers. He owns a significant amount of land in Ghaiman, 30 km outside of Sana’a. With help from the Economic Opportunities Fund (EOF) he has developed a strategy to discourage the cultivation of qat and encouraging the planting of prickly pears.
The renewed interest in prickly pears demonstrates the wisdoms of the man and women who worked the lands before. Prickly pears can protect against sudden invaders, soil erosion and can be planted in current qat fields. The plant will grow side by side with the qat trees until they eventually take all the space.
It is an exotic fruit, unknown to many around the world, and is inexpensive. It can be exported and would likely enjoy success around the world. Each pear costs about YR 100.
“Yemen could be exporting fruit around the world,” Executive Director of the EOF Fawzi Altewai said. “We are excited by news that farmers in Ghaiman are uprooting qat and replacing it with fruit.”
Figs don’t require much water, unlike qat, said Altewai. Neither does a farmer have to worry much about people stealing crops.
The EOF is supporting farmers being helping to establish the first professional water irrigation network. Project engineer, Abdulmalik al-Thawar praised the cooperation between the EOF and farmers in Ghaiman Bani Bahlawl, Sana’a. The irrigation system would encourage many farmers to farm accordingly, he said.
The farmers of Ghaiman are an example to farmers around Yemen, said al-Thawar.
Each branch contains about 15 prickly pears, bringing in a healthy income for farmers, said Adel Muher. The campaign will require the help of the government to market the effort, and more than 4000 workers to farm, harvest, market and sell the fruit locally.