Date of RUAF intervention: 2007-ongoing
Introduction | Urban Agriculture in Sana'a | Multi stakeholder action planning | From Seed to Table | Products | Contact
INTRODUCTION: CITY CONTEXT
Sana’a, the capital of the Republic of Yemen, is situated on a plateau 2,200 m above sea level. At present, the population of the city is estimated to be 1,7 million (2004 census) and is projected to increase to over 3.4 million by the year 2010. Agriculture forms an important part of the economy (accounting for 17% of GDP in 2001), despite the lack of arable land (3%), scarcity of water, periodic droughts, and difficult terrain. Employment in the agricultural sector accounts for more than 64% of the workforce.
Traditionally, Yemen was famous for its coffee, but currently the main cash crop is qat, a mild stimulant chewed by most Yemenis on a daily basis, but which is not exported significantly because it is highly perishable. Qat plays a major role in the Yemeni economy. It accounts for around 6 percent of GDP, 10 percent of consumption, one-third of agricultural GDP, and provides employment for one in every seven working Yemeni. As the predominant cash crop, the income it generates plays a vital role in urban and rural economies. But it also depletes scarce water resources and replaced essential food crops and agricultural exports. Some 72 percent of Yemeni males reported that they chew qat, compared to 33 percent of females. And because qat has become so important in Yemeni life, some among the poorer segments of society will willingly forego food in favor of buying qat. Commercial farming of fruits and vegetables provides a level of production to nearly satisfy domestic demand.
URBAN AGRICULTURE IN SANA'A
The geographical area of the Municipality has dramatically expanded in the recent decades to accommodate the increase in the population. However, a large number of citizens (9,770 as estimated in 2007) still work on some 9,300 hectares of agricultural land in the city. The same census of 2007 showed that on 7,700 hectares more than 37,500 tons of vegetables (leek, coriander, radish, onions and tomatoes), forage (alfalfa, maize, and barley), fruits (grapes, berries, nuts, peaches and apricots) qat and other seasonal grain crops were produced. The older part of the historic city, which is now a UNESCO world heritage site, still contains 21 hectares of orchards and vegetable farms (like the Almaqashim or the mosque gardens) which supply the population with part of the local food needs. The size of land holdings range between 0.25 and 7 hectares; most of which are private properties (85%), the rest is public and Waqf (religious community) properties.
The livestock population in the city comprises around 4,500 heads of cows and 110,000 heads of sheep and goat in addition to camels, donkeys, poultry and bees. In addition, there are large areas within military camps that are cultivated by the armed forces to contribute to their fresh food supply, which are not included in the census.
The main source of irrigation is ground water (> 55 per cent), which is used mainly for horticulture and qat production, forage and grain production is rain-fed. Another water source specific for Sana’a is greywater from the mosques or ablution water, which is used to irrigate the maquashim or mosque gardens.
These agricultural activities constitute an essential part of urban livelihoods to supply food for consumption and income. The whole family is involved: women (27 per cent of the urban agricultural permanent workers) usually keep the animals and participate in planting, harvesting and post-harvesting activities as well as marketing (direct sale in the field or in nearby public markets).
MULTI STAKEHOLDER ACTION PLANNING
Supported by RUAF – ESDU, and in cooperation with Sana’a municipality represented by the Public Department of Gardens and the Bureau of Agriculture, the nongovernmental organization YASAD (Yemeni Association for Sustainable Agriculture and Development) initiated the MPAP in 2007. A core team of 7 persons was formed to implement and coordinate the process. A Multi-stakeholder Forum on Urban Agriculture was established including representatives from nongovernmental organisations, research institutes, producer organizations and various municipal and ministerial departments (agriculture council, public gardens, public works) and the Sana’a Watershed Management Project, funded by the World Bank, the National Council for Urban Planning, individual urban farmers, the Association for the Conservation of Gardens in Old Sana’a, the Agricultural University of Sana’a and the Agriculture Cooperatives Union.
A policy narrative was developed, based on the situation analysis and served as a basis for the development of the Sana’a City Strategic Agenda on Urban Agriculture (CSA). When writing the policy narrative, Yemen got very badly hit by the world food crisis, early 2008, urban agriculture became an important issue. YASAD managed to extend the process across the 10 districts of Sana’a, also the Ministry of Agriculture got particularly interested in the MPAP and linked it to the “Green Belt Initiative”, which aims to increase the planted surfaces in Greater Sana’a and in peri-urban areas by 20 percent. This increased the possibility of acquiring additional funding.
The results of the situation analysis and policy narrative were presented at a first meeting of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum (MSF) in September 2008. During this meeting the value of urban agriculture as an important entry point for poverty alleviation and food security in Yemen in general and in Sana’a in particular was recognized and received significant attention from the press. The MSF formulated a vision statement for the development of urban agriculture. The MSF was well attended with representatives from almost all line ministries concerned and different services of the Sana’a Municipality, the Sana’a Farmers Unions and researchers from the University of Sana’a, but civil society organizations were underrepresented.
The first meeting of the MSF marked the start of the preparation of the Sana’a City Strategic Agenda on Urban Agriculture. This development was guided by three working groups on: media, technical aspects and legal aspects, which elaborated on issues as water availability and more efficient use of irrigation water; agriculture extension and development services; empowering women agriculture and different institutions; the reformulation of laws and regulations in order to preserve agricultural activities and enhance access to land and more specifically access to land for grazing. The results of the working groups were shared with a broader group of stakeholders during consultative meetings and presented and discussed in a second MSF meeting in December 2008 leading to the adoption of the Sana’a City Strategic Agenda on Urban Agriculture.
City Strategic Agenda
The Sana’a City Strategic Agenda on Urban Agriculture (CSA) links the work of the MSF to existing or planned initiatives targeting poverty reduction (through the Social Fund for Development and European Union funded projects), as well as the “Green Belt Initiative” championed by the Ministry of Agriculture
In the CSA the following strategy lines are mentioned:
- Water availability and its inefficient use for agricultural purposes is the most important obstacle facing the development of urban agriculture in the Sana’a.
- Agriculture extension and development services are inefficient with regard to agriculture inputs, veterinary advice, efficient forage production.
- Empowering the role of women in different agricultural activities: women can have an important role in generating income, alleviating the poverty and malnutrition conditions, since the consumption of qat is taking a major part of the family income.
- Laws and regulations: (re)formulating the laws so that agricultural activities can be preserved and access to land is enhanced specially for grazing pastures.
The CSA was agreed by the Multi Stakeholder Forum in Sana’a in March 2009.
Urban agriculture has been strongly put back on the development map of Sana’a. Before, the main focus of the municipality was to preserve the ancestral community gardens of Sana’a for pure conservation purposes (through the UNESCO World Heritage Classification). With the RUAF support urban agriculture in Sana’a was linked to other important city issues like food security and poverty alleviation.
Urban agriculture has repeatedly been featured in radio shows and in the press. This helped in promoting urban agriculture in the city and to key persons in the public and private sector, who became familiarized and aware of urban agriculture.
All related Municipal Departments and Committees of the Municipality of Sana’a (Agriculture, Public Gardens, Public Works) actively participate in the MSF and contributed to the situation analysis and the development of the CSA. Cooperation between these institutions, and between them and other stakeholders has been enhanced.
Urban farmers have been encouraged to organise themselves and now participate in increasing number and more actively in the MSF. Their lobbying capacities have been supported, which is essential for a participatory and inclusive decision-making processes.
Laws and regulations related to urban agriculture have been analysed and suggestions for change have been made in coordination with the municipal and legislative institutions concerned. This will support the revision of the Master Plan of Sana’a in 2010. A major recommendation by the MSF to this revision is the preservation of the remaining agriculture land and the need for spatial urban development towards the arid plateaus surrounding the city rather than on prime agricultural lands as it has been the case so far.
The Municipality of Sana’a has provided for a public space, which will be used as a demonstration plot for teachers and school children to learn how to implement small school gardens at their premises and encouraging their parents to grow crops at home.
The “Green Belt Initiative” in Sana’a has been revived under the MSF. This initiative seeks to increase the planted areas of Sana’a by 20% (and involves various line ministries as well community based organisation). This initiative is now also a national example for other cities such as Aden, Taez or Hadramout. IFAD and UNESCWA (the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia) support this initiative. Integration of urban agriculture in the greenbelt will help improving access to land (now urban agriculture is mostly practiced on lands owned by religious institutions or big landlords).
The MSF is serving now as a major interlocutor for major donors, like the World Bank. Based on the CSA a proposal has been developed to support and develop urban agriculture in Sana’a, and the Bank earmarked USD 1M for this. In addition the Bank is planning to replicate these experiences in two other cities in Yemen, and invited RUAF to assist in the development of a regional programme on urban agriculture in the Middle East (Yemen, Egypt, Jordan, Syria). This will be the first substantial urban agriculture programme to be financed by the World Bank. The Social Fund for Development of Yemen has awarded the MSF a grant in 2009 to equip a meeting room with furniture, a portable pc and audio-visual equipment and both parties are looking at the possibilities for financing activities of the CSA related to women empowerment and food security. In addition, contacts have been established with the Spanish Cooperation for potential support in the execution of the CSA in 2010.
FROM SEED TO TABLE
In Sana’a, RUAF works with YASAD to improve the production of free-range eggs. Local breed of chicken will be raised to produce free-range eggs which will be marketed in a labeled package of 6 eggs and sold to high-end markets.
RUAF-MENA is implementing a “Socially Responsible Production Protocol” inspired by the principles of free trade, community supported agriculture and organic farming/IPM, which will entail additional interaction, training and backstopping of farmers in order to implement it properly.
|A local label for urban agriculture produce in Amman and San’a|
The RUAF Urban Farmer groups in Amman and Yemen are applying a “Socially Responsible Production Protocol” for their urban produce. The protocol guarantees that the produce comes from a radius of 10 kms or less from the City Centre, that environmental ethics are respected during the production process, that it does not involve any abusive women or children labour and that 75% or more of the price paid by the consumers is distributed back to the farmers. Signature of these production protocols will take early 2010 during a large public event aiming at raising further the awareness around urban agriculture.
After a thorough market analysis, the farmer groups have developed a business plan to realize the identified organizational and technical changes, as well as to enhance the innovation and entrepreneurial capacity of the producers and their organization. At the same time curricula are being developed that strongly knit together the above-mentioned components in periodic farmer meetings that combine planning with practical exchange and learning on the technical and organizational aspects of production and marketing of the selected product (so-called Urban Producer Field Schools).
Parallel to these activities, a study has been launched to identify existing and possible new innovative forms of credit and financing of small-scale market-oriented urban agriculture. The studies will bring forward concrete recommendations of enhancing urban producers’ access to finance, particularly important in the realization of technical and organizational improvements along the market chain.
Dr. Amin Al Hakimi (president of Yemeni Association for Sustainable Agricultural Development (YASAD), Professor in the Faculty of Agriculture / University of Sana’a; email@example.com
Environmental and Sustainable Development Unit (ESDU)
Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences
American University of Beirut
PO BOX:11-0236 Riad El Solh 110 12020 Beirut Lebanon
Phone: (+961 1) 350 000 Ext: 4503
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Email: firstname.lastname@example.org website: www.esdu-aub.org
Regional coordinator Eng. Ziad Moussa email@example.com
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