Written By: Thuria Ghaleb
Article Date: Jul 15, 2008 - 3:46:38 AM
Modern irrigation techniques can help to conserve Yemen's dwindling water reserves.
The increase in the cost of food items might finally encourage Yemeni farmers to give priority to growing cereals, especially wheat. There is also a need for expansion in modern irrigation techniques with programs to increase water-use efficiency and careful monitoring of water use, a new report has recommended.
The National Water Sector Strategy and Investment Program (NWSSIP) 2005-2009 and the Joint Annual Review (JAR III) 2007 report also recommended paying more attention to modern irrigation systems and increasing investment in these systems. It also recommended giving the staff working in the irrigation sector appropriate incentives and training to improve the irrigation services.
More recommendations were also discussed in a workshop held on the update of the 2005-2009 NWSSIP and 2007 JAR III on Wednesday, July 9, at the Mövenpick Hotel in Sana’a. It was conducted by the Technical Secretary (TS)/ Reform of the Institutional Framework in the Urban Water Supply and Sanitation Sector, Ministry of Water and Environment, in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation with an audience of around 160 participants from different sectors.
“Such update aims to shrink the gap between the strategy’s investment program and the water sector’s spending appropriations. It is also aimed to put a time-work program to be easily supervised and evaluated,” said Abdul-Karim al-Arhabi, Deputy-Prime Minister and Minister of Planning and International Cooperation.
“Also, there are no performance indicators or real outcomes in the current 2005-2009 strategy. Thus, we need such workshops to benefit from the different opinions in updating the strategy for 2009-2015. We also need to wholly integrate water used in irrigation in the upcoming strategy,” he said.
The National Water Sector Strategy is supported by donors working in Yemen as a developmental plan approved by the cabinet in the middle of 2005. The first and second Joint Annual Reviews of 2005 and 2006 led the government to decide updating the strategy in its fourth year in the light of what it was experienced before. The strategy update requires the forming of six work groups headed by representatives of bodies working in these sectors.
Deputy- Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation and Head of the Water Sector Support Program Committee, Abdul-Malik al-Arashi, said that these groups held many meetings and discussions during the past months of 2008 in order to prepare the upcoming strategy for 2009-2015 and evaluate the 2007 JAR III.
“The past four years after approving the National Water Sector Strategy and the Investment Program was sufficient time to evaluate the 2005-2009 strategy which needs to be updated for the upcoming years,” said Abdul-Rahman al-Eryani, Minister of Water and Environment.
The NWSSIP update is mainly based on some particular problems: water resources scarcity, over-exploited aquifers, and low access to safe water and sanitation. According to the draft of the NWSSIP update, all these problems can be solved only one way: by improved water resource management.
The water crisis in Yemen is one of the country’s most serious crises. It is also one of the serious factors affecting poverty, since it deprives vast numbers of Yemenis from pursuing sustainable agriculture.
The 2005-2009 NWSSIP and 2007 JAR III take the decreasing rain-supplied agricultural areas, which cover around 54 percent of all cultivated areas, as a big problem that needs to be solved with the updated strategy. The report mainly returns this problem to the decreased productivity of field crops under rain-supported farming systems.
Unconventional water resources such as treated sewage water, brackish water and water with high content of salts (grey water) are becoming feasible as a result of population growth and rapid urban-expansion. It is necessary to make every effort to treat and use such water in order to struggle against environment pollution, the report said.
Additionally, the qat problem is one of the most important issues affecting all segments in Yemeni society, especially those working in irrigation. In relation to this, the report recommended the updated NWSSIP to pay more attention to this issue in coordination with all organizations and related authorities. It may help to put clearer qat-policies soften the negative effects on farmers, public health and environment, especially water resources, the report recommended.
The current strategy also recommended supporting the National Irrigation Program which gives a wide space for dialogue and active participation in solving the water problem currently faced in Yemen. The program will also have positive impacts on lengthy procedures currently applied by the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, and it will facilitate service provision to farmers in a more efficient manner.
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