Dutch contribution to support Sana’a basin water management

National Yemen

Sana’a city the capital of Yemen

On behalf of the Netherlands Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Ambassador Jeroen Verheul signed today, at the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation (MoPIC), in Sana’a, with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Representative in Yemen, Dr Salah Hajj Hassan, the Contribution Agreement for the execution of the “Decentralized supply and water use management in the Sana’a basin to sustain water resources and rural livelihoods”. A project formulated upon the request of the Government of the Republic of Yemen.

Similarly, the Project Agreement was signed by, H.E. Dr Mohamed Saaed Al-Saadi, Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, H.E. Farid Ahmed Mogawar, Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation, H.E.Abdul Razaz Saleh Khalid, Minister of Water and Environment and the FAO Representative in Yemen.

This three year project of a value of USD 4 934 507 aims at reducing groundwater abstraction in the Sana’a basin towards more sustainable levels, in a way that does not negatively affect rural and urban livelihoods. Water resource management is one of the key strategic priority areas in the FAO Yemen Plan of Action 2014-2018. This project will also be implemented as part of FAO’s Regional Water Scarcity Initiative which aims at developing strategies towards a more effective use of ground, rain and surface water based on cost/benefit analysis.

The main outcomes of the Project will consider that (i) farmers, organized in Water Users Associations (WUAs), are aware of the consequences of the present depletion rates, a situation that may worsen under the influence of climate change, and are prepared to take action towards sustainable groundwater development; (ii) water-efficient and climate-smart crop production systems that are crucial to reduce groundwater abstraction are implemented through “integrated water resource management” principles and crop production improvements; (iii) WUAs are empowered to negotiate sustainable groundwater management plans, and mechanisms are in place for such negotiation processes, with the support of relevant government institutions.

The Ambassador of the Netherlands recalled the long history of cooperation between Yemen and the Netherlands, particularly in the water sector. Ambassador Verheul underlined the need to strengthen Yemeni capacity to manage water resources for the benefit of present and future generations. Verheul said: “One project is already underway through Alterra, providing stakeholders in sustainable water management with reliable information on water use and available water resources. Reliable information should be publicly available to enable all to make the right decisions. The project we are signing today is the second activity, now focussing on the vulnerable Sana’a basin. Empowering farmer groups to sustainably manage their precious water resources is the main focus of FAO’s work with water user associations in this basin. Taking a critical look at wasteful irrigation practices and crop selection (in particular the water consuming Qat plants) is integral to the project we are launching today. We hope to be able to start a similar activity in Tihama basin in the very near future.”

According to Dr Salah Hajj Hassan, “the overall decline of groundwater levels in the Sana’a basin are now dropping to 6 metres per year and groundwater resources depletion is presently about 200 Mm³ per year which means that the risk of running out of water is imminent. An assessment will be made of the existing WUAs present in the four sub-basins selected for the Project and further support will be provided to ensure the development of a sustainable agriculture sector based on the principle of Integrated Water Resource Management. Where needed, existing WUAs will be enforced and new WUAs will be created. This  project is a potential opportunity to tackle issues around water resource management, smart agricultural practices and reinforcement of the capacities of national stakeholders to sustain water technical and institutional services”.

FAO Representative in Yemen addressed the thanks to  the Netherlands Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation through its Ambassador in Yemen, Mr. Jeroen Verheul, for this significant contribution and expressed his deep appreciation for the excellent collaboration with the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation, the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation and the Ministry of Water and Environment which has led to the signature of these agreements. We look forward to successful achievements in the reduction of groundwater abstraction to sustain water resources and rural livelihoods in the Sana’a Basin.

Their Excellencies, the ministers, praised the importance of the project to maintain the groundwater in the Sana’a Basin and thanked the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Food and Agriculture Organization on the positive role they play in this crucial aspect.