In Yemen, farming is no longer a profession only for those who inherited it from their parents. Because of the war, many people who have lost their jobs or don’t earn enough of a salary have now turned to the land.

Abdullah Qaid, aged 45, has spent 28 years as a teacher in Taiz’s Gabal Habashi district. His salary used to be enough to support his eight family members.

However, during the last five years the Yemeni currency collapsed from YER215 against the US dollar in 2015 to more than YER800 now. That has led to a huge increase in food prices, so many people can no longer afford it—including public workers like Abdullah.

“I’m a teacher and my salary doesn’t cover even the half of what my family needs. The situation of the people here in general is very bad. Before the war, some used to work in Aden, Sana’a or Al-Hodeidah to provide for their families.”

Teachers in Taiz governorate went without salaries for more than a year and only started receiving payments again in 2017 when food prices had already jumped.

“Since the beginning of the war, people have lost their jobs and they have returned to the village, where there is no chance of work. So a real tragedy was happening in this village.”

“A real tragedy was happening in this village… some families used to mix flour with animal feed and eat it”

Abdullah recalls an unforgettable moment for him, from a time now lost: “My home is near the main road and I used to see children’s smiles and happiness when they waited their fathers to arrive home from [jobs in] other governorates. Those smiles disappeared from the children’s faces after the war.”
 
Abdullah says that people were struggling to get food for their families. “Some families used to mix flour with animal feed and eat it, because they couldn’t afford the price of pure flour.”

People in Gabal Habsahi district used to plant corn in summer as feed for their cows, but they didn’t plant anything in winter and so the farms remained barren for six months a year.

They didn’t think about vegetable farming until the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) arrived in this little valley.
 
At first, there was resistance to the idea, because people didn’t know how it would work.
 
“When NRC arrived, we were told that they would provide us with support to start vegetable farming. The idea wasn’t clear and many people didn’t have any experience about vegetables farming,” Abdullah says.

“Then we received training from NRC and we learnt a lot. So we were happy to start a new experience of planting vegetables.”
With support from the Yemen Humanitarian Fund (YHF), NRC has now helped 500 famers like Abdullah in Gabal Habashi district with tomato, zucchini, okra, and onion seeds. The families were also provided with training, and cash to help them plough and water their farmlands.

Abdullah says that all the family members go to work in the fields, and they are happy to have a new source of income.
“Almost all the people in our village are farming now. There were some problems like the water source being far from some fields, but we overcame that problem by buying a pump.”

Another problem that farmers faced was the fees for ploughing fields, but that was solved by the cash they received from NRC.
“Now the valley is full of zucchini, okra and tomatoes. We have started to harvest zucchini and we will start selling tomatoes in ten days.”

Farmers sell twenty kilos of zucchini for YER3,000-4,000 and twenty kilos of okra for around YER5,000, which is a good price for customers.

“I can see the situation of families here is better now and my own situation has improved now with the beginning of the harvest season,” Abdullah says.

“Mothers harvest a basket and go to sell it in the market and buy what they need. Fathers do the same so families have money to buy what they need.”
 
Abdullah explains that the income from the vegetables isn’t enough to cover everything, but it helps to fill a big gap for these families.
 
Abdullah attributes the cheap prices at the moment to the harvest season, as all farmers are harvesting their crops at the same time so the markets are full of vegetables.

“There are many families who are benefiting from the low prices as they can buy cheap vegetables for their families.”
Abdullah considers this season as the best of the year, as all family members can earn money from selling the vegetables and can eat from their farmlands.

“The vegetable from my farm taste like honey to me. When I buy vegetables from the market, they don’t taste like the ones from my farm, which are so fresh. Sometimes I even cook them myself.”

“The vegetable from my farm taste like honey to me”
Abdullah believes that the high cost of seeds in Yemen is still the main problem threating this new wave of farming, especially because this is still the first year and so farmers are spending what they earn on basic goods.

“A packet of 1,000 zucchini seeds costs YER45,000. I as a farmer can’t buy it for this price, it is very difficult for me to save YER45,000 from what the vegetables earn this year.”

He confirmed that the farmers would be happy to continue farming if they get help with the seeds.

“Farmers now are in the middle of the journey, and they still need support. If they get more support next year they will keep going, as they are unemployed and don’t have any other work to do.”
Abdullah thanks NRC for this support. “NRC helped to re-light the good feeling in the hearts of farmers.”

Text: Nasser Abdulkareem/NRC
Photo: Khalid Al-Banna/NRC
Yemen

Sowing the seeds of self-sufficiency

Hunger levels are dangerously high in Yemen. But one group of farmers has found a way to feed their families and make a profit from growing vegetables.

Abdullah spent 28 years working as a teacher in Taiz, a city in south-west Yemen. His salary used to be enough to support his eight family members. But that was before the war escalated in 2015.

Over the past six years, the Yemeni currency (the Rial) has declined in value. Teachers like Adbullah went without their salaries for more than a year. The financial situation led to a huge spike in food prices.

“Some families used to mix flour with animal feed and eat it because they couldn’t afford the price of pure flour,” Abdullah recalls.

Abdullah inherited land from his father. He used to grow corn on it to supplement his teaching work, but this wasn’t enough to provide for his family.

Now, with the support of the Yemen Humanitarian Fund (YHF), the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) is helping 1,000 farming families like Abdullah’s in Jabal Habashi district, Taiz, to grow vegetables.

The families are provided with seeds, farming tools, training, and cash to pay for ploughing and access to water. Farmers then sell part of their harvests, including tomatoes, zucchini, okra, and onions, at the village market. “Now, families have money to buy what they need,” says Abdullah.

In Yemen, farming is no longer a profession only for those who inherited it from their parents. Because of the war, many people who have lost their jobs or don’t earn enough of a salary have now turned to the land.

Abdullah Qaid, aged 45, has spent 28 years as a teacher in Taiz’s Gabal Habashi district. His salary used to be enough to support his eight family members.

However, during the last five years the Yemeni currency collapsed from YER215 against the US dollar in 2015 to more than YER800 now. That has led to a huge increase in food prices, so many people can no longer afford it—including public workers like Abdullah.

“I’m a teacher and my salary doesn’t cover even the half of what my family needs. The situation of the people here in general is very bad. Before the war, some used to work in Aden, Sana’a or Al-Hodeidah to provide for their families.”

Teachers in Taiz governorate went without salaries for more than a year and only started receiving payments again in 2017 when food prices had already jumped.

“Since the beginning of the war, people have lost their jobs and they have returned to the village, where there is no chance of work. So a real tragedy was happening in this village.”

“A real tragedy was happening in this village… some families used to mix flour with animal feed and eat it”

Abdullah recalls an unforgettable moment for him, from a time now lost: “My home is near the main road and I used to see children’s smiles and happiness when they waited their fathers to arrive home from [jobs in] other governorates. Those smiles disappeared from the children’s faces after the war.”
 
Abdullah says that people were struggling to get food for their families. “Some families used to mix flour with animal feed and eat it, because they couldn’t afford the price of pure flour.”

People in Gabal Habsahi district used to plant corn in summer as feed for their cows, but they didn’t plant anything in winter and so the farms remained barren for six months a year.

They didn’t think about vegetable farming until the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) arrived in this little valley.
 
At first, there was resistance to the idea, because people didn’t know how it would work.
 
“When NRC arrived, we were told that they would provide us with support to start vegetable farming. The idea wasn’t clear and many people didn’t have any experience about vegetables farming,” Abdullah says.

“Then we received training from NRC and we learnt a lot. So we were happy to start a new experience of planting vegetables.”
With support from the Yemen Humanitarian Fund (YHF), NRC has now helped 500 famers like Abdullah in Gabal Habashi district with tomato, zucchini, okra, and onion seeds. The families were also provided with training, and cash to help them plough and water their farmlands.

Abdullah says that all the family members go to work in the fields, and they are happy to have a new source of income.
“Almost all the people in our village are farming now. There were some problems like the water source being far from some fields, but we overcame that problem by buying a pump.”

Another problem that farmers faced was the fees for ploughing fields, but that was solved by the cash they received from NRC.
“Now the valley is full of zucchini, okra and tomatoes. We have started to harvest zucchini and we will start selling tomatoes in ten days.”

Farmers sell twenty kilos of zucchini for YER3,000-4,000 and twenty kilos of okra for around YER5,000, which is a good price for customers.

“I can see the situation of families here is better now and my own situation has improved now with the beginning of the harvest season,” Abdullah says.

“Mothers harvest a basket and go to sell it in the market and buy what they need. Fathers do the same so families have money to buy what they need.”
 
Abdullah explains that the income from the vegetables isn’t enough to cover everything, but it helps to fill a big gap for these families.
 
Abdullah attributes the cheap prices at the moment to the harvest season, as all farmers are harvesting their crops at the same time so the markets are full of vegetables.

“There are many families who are benefiting from the low prices as they can buy cheap vegetables for their families.”
Abdullah considers this season as the best of the year, as all family members can earn money from selling the vegetables and can eat from their farmlands.

“The vegetable from my farm taste like honey to me. When I buy vegetables from the market, they don’t taste like the ones from my farm, which are so fresh. Sometimes I even cook them myself.”

“The vegetable from my farm taste like honey to me”
Abdullah believes that the high cost of seeds in Yemen is still the main problem threating this new wave of farming, especially because this is still the first year and so farmers are spending what they earn on basic goods.

“A packet of 1,000 zucchini seeds costs YER45,000. I as a farmer can’t buy it for this price, it is very difficult for me to save YER45,000 from what the vegetables earn this year.”

He confirmed that the farmers would be happy to continue farming if they get help with the seeds.

“Farmers now are in the middle of the journey, and they still need support. If they get more support next year they will keep going, as they are unemployed and don’t have any other work to do.”
Abdullah thanks NRC for this support. “NRC helped to re-light the good feeling in the hearts of farmers.”

Text: Nasser Abdulkareem/NRC
Photo: Khalid Al-Banna/NRC
Read caption Farmers in Taiz’s Jabal Habashi district are supported by NRC to plant their land with vegetables to provide for their families. Photo: Khalid Al-Banna/NRC

“Our life is better now we are farming”

Rashidah Abdu is another of the farmers who received assistance. She is the sole breadwinner for her five children, the eldest of whom is only 14 years old. A friend allowed her to use part of his land and she started growing vegetables.

“Before, we struggled to get enough food and other basics but now everything is within reach,” says Rashidah. “Our life is better now we are farming. Instead of working for others, we work on our crops and get enough money.”

Rashidah’s can now provide her children with books, materials and clothes for school.

Rashidah Abdu is the sole breadwinner for her five children, the eldest of whom is only 14 years old. She has been working to provide for them and help them to stay in school. 

“I used to work with people in farms, in houses or any available work. Sometimes I worked for one day and then couldn’t find more work. It was a struggle to provide for my family,” she says.

The money Rashidah earned was very little, so she hoped to start her own farm.
 
With support from the Yemen Humanitarian Fund (YHF), NRC has helped 500 people to plant vegetables in Taiz’s Al-Mawaset district, including Rashidah. These families have been provided with seeds and trained in good farming practices. NRC also provided the farmers with cash to help them plough and water their farmlands.
 
“NRC helped us with seeds, money, tools and everything we need to start farming. Water also is available so I’m happy to farm,” Rashidah adds. She planted okra, onion and tomatoes and works on her crops from early in the morning until sunset.

“Sometimes we return home too tired from the hard work to cook, so we buy bread from the shop. However, we can find enough food now as we have already started to sell the harvest. Before, we struggled to get enough food and other basics, but now everything is within reach. Our life is better after farming. Instead of working for others we work on our own crops and get enough money.”

Rashidah’s children go to school in the morning and help her in the fields in the afternoon. She now can provide her children with books, materials, and clothes for school.

“I’m planning to continue farming in the coming seasons and hope I will find seeds and money to continue,” Rashidah says.
“All people want to help themselves and their families and I will do my best to keep planting in the coming seasons.”

Rashidah doesn’t have her own land so she is farming someone else’s land, who allow her plant there to help her family.
“I thank NRC for the seeds, money and all their efforts to help us make an income of our own.”

Text: Nasser Abdulkareem/NRC
Photo: Khalid Al-Banna/NRC
Read caption Rashidah used to work for others to provide for her children but now, with NRC’s help, she has started farming for herself. Photo: Khalid Al-Banna/NRC

Farming all year round

Badreyah Hussein, another farmer in Taiz’s Jabal Habashi district, had no experience of farming in the winter. She said she used to plant corn in the summer and leave her land fallow in winter. She had never planted vegetables before.

“NRC trained us in vegetable farming, and we liked the idea,” says Badreyah. “They provided us with seeds, tools, money, and we started to plant vegetables for the first time.”

“Before, from the harvest we got, we kept seeds for the coming season. There wasn’t enough to eat or sell. That has been our life since I was a child. Now, things have changed for the better,” she says.

Badreyah Hussein, a farmer in Taiz’s Gabal Habashi district, used to plant corn in summer and left her land fallow in winter. 

Water wasn’t the problem, as there is running water near the fields. But like many other farmers in the area, Badreyah had simply no experience farming in winter. And none of them had tried to plant vegetables before. 

“We didn’t depend on the fields to provide for our families. We only planted corn to use the leaves to feed our cows,” she says.
“The harvest we got, we kept for seeds for the coming season. There wasn’t enough to eat or sell. That has been our life since I was a child.”

The breadwinners of the families here would go to work in other governorates and earn an income that way. Badreyah’s husband, Mohammed, used to work as a blacksmith before 2015. But since the war in Yemen broke out, things have changed dramatically for the worse.
 
“My husband hasn’t worked since the beginning of the crisis. He only works for one or two days now and then. My son bought a motorcycle and he hires it out to help us,” Badreyah explains. Their family has been struggling to get enough food.

“No one else provides for the family. Some people used to help us. Our situation before the crisis was better.”

Badreyah’s family consists of eight members. The eldest son, who owns the motorcycle, is now 25 years old. Badreyah used to cut wood from the valley and sell it as firewood to help her family, but it wasn’t enough. She thought hard about other ways to earn money, but planting vegetables didn’t occur to her.

“We didn’t have any experience in vegetable farming,” she says. “And we didn’t consider it because we know the seeds are expensive. So many people here used to be poor and unemployed until the Norwegian Refugee Council [NRC] arrived.”

“NRC came and trained us in vegetable farming and we liked the idea. Then they provided us with seeds, tools and money and we started to plant vegetables for the first time,” she says.

With support from the Yemen Humanitarian Fund (YHF), NRC has helped 500 farmers in Gabal Habashi with seeds for tomatoes, zucchini, okra, and onion, along with training in how to plant them. NRC also provided the farmers with cash to help them plough and water their farmlands.
 
All of Badreyah’s family help with the farming. Her husband and son go to work from early in the morning. The women cook the breakfast before following the men to the fields, and then start working alongside them.

“All farmers are happy with their farming and they started to sell zucchini. I myself sold zucchini three times, and each time I sold between three to four baskets!”

“I’m still harvesting zucchini and selling it the market.”
Badreyah says that she will continue to plant vegetables in the coming season. “In summer, I will plant corn because I have a cow and in winter I will plant zucchini.”

“We have been working shoulder to shoulder since the planting and now we feel comfortable and happy when we take zucchini and okra from the fields and go back to cook them. It is an unmatched happiness when you eat from your harvest.”

Badreyah pointed out, however, that this crop of zucchini won’t produce good-quality seeds for the coming season, so they will still need help to buy more seeds.

“What we get from selling the vegetables, we use to buy pesticides and basic things for the family. We can’t save enough money to buy seeds for the coming season, as it is expensive,” she confirms.
 
The price of zucchini is cheap at the moment in the local market, at just YER3,000-3,500 [US$5] for a 20kg basket, when it cost YER8,000-10,000 a few months ago. This low price—which is good for local families trying to buy food—has a downside: it means that farmers can’t easily save enough money to buy more seeds, as these have become much more expensive during the war.

“It is an unmatched happiness when you eat from your harvest.”
  
Text: Nasser Abdulkareem/NRC
Photo: Khalid Al-Banna/NRC
Read caption Badreyah is trying vegetable farming for the first time. She describes the new experience as a good one which has helped her to provide for her family. Photo: Khalid Al-Banna/NRC

Nearly 16 million people – more than half of Yemen’s population – are facing dangerous levels of hunger and rely on humanitarian aid to survive. Food prices in Yemen have soared, pushing prices out of reach for millions of people.

Although only a small proportion of Yemen’s food is produced domestically, nearly two-thirds of Yemenis make a living from agriculture. Projects like this increase access to food for vulnerable people, and also help them earn an income.

More support is needed for sustainable livelihoods in Yemen so that people do not have to rely on aid to survive and can ensure their families do not go hungry.

In Yemen, farming is no longer a profession only for those who inherited it from their parents. Because of the war, many people who have lost their jobs or don’t earn enough of a salary have now turned to the land.

Abdullah Qaid, aged 45, has spent 28 years as a teacher in Taiz’s Gabal Habashi district. His salary used to be enough to support his eight family members.

However, during the last five years the Yemeni currency collapsed from YER215 against the US dollar in 2015 to more than YER800 now. That has led to a huge increase in food prices, so many people can no longer afford it—including public workers like Abdullah.

“I’m a teacher and my salary doesn’t cover even the half of what my family needs. The situation of the people here in general is very bad. Before the war, some used to work in Aden, Sana’a or Al-Hodeidah to provide for their families.”

Teachers in Taiz governorate went without salaries for more than a year and only started receiving payments again in 2017 when food prices had already jumped.

“Since the beginning of the war, people have lost their jobs and they have returned to the village, where there is no chance of work. So a real tragedy was happening in this village.”

“A real tragedy was happening in this village… some families used to mix flour with animal feed and eat it”

Abdullah recalls an unforgettable moment for him, from a time now lost: “My home is near the main road and I used to see children’s smiles and happiness when they waited their fathers to arrive home from [jobs in] other governorates. Those smiles disappeared from the children’s faces after the war.”
 
Abdullah says that people were struggling to get food for their families. “Some families used to mix flour with animal feed and eat it, because they couldn’t afford the price of pure flour.”

People in Gabal Habsahi district used to plant corn in summer as feed for their cows, but they didn’t plant anything in winter and so the farms remained barren for six months a year.

They didn’t think about vegetable farming until the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) arrived in this little valley.
 
At first, there was resistance to the idea, because people didn’t know how it would work.
 
“When NRC arrived, we were told that they would provide us with support to start vegetable farming. The idea wasn’t clear and many people didn’t have any experience about vegetables farming,” Abdullah says.

“Then we received training from NRC and we learnt a lot. So we were happy to start a new experience of planting vegetables.”
With support from the Yemen Humanitarian Fund (YHF), NRC has now helped 500 famers like Abdullah in Gabal Habashi district with tomato, zucchini, okra, and onion seeds. The families were also provided with training, and cash to help them plough and water their farmlands.

Abdullah says that all the family members go to work in the fields, and they are happy to have a new source of income.
“Almost all the people in our village are farming now. There were some problems like the water source being far from some fields, but we overcame that problem by buying a pump.”

Another problem that farmers faced was the fees for ploughing fields, but that was solved by the cash they received from NRC.
“Now the valley is full of zucchini, okra and tomatoes. We have started to harvest zucchini and we will start selling tomatoes in ten days.”

Farmers sell twenty kilos of zucchini for YER3,000-4,000 and twenty kilos of okra for around YER5,000, which is a good price for customers.

“I can see the situation of families here is better now and my own situation has improved now with the beginning of the harvest season,” Abdullah says.

“Mothers harvest a basket and go to sell it in the market and buy what they need. Fathers do the same so families have money to buy what they need.”
 
Abdullah explains that the income from the vegetables isn’t enough to cover everything, but it helps to fill a big gap for these families.
 
Abdullah attributes the cheap prices at the moment to the harvest season, as all farmers are harvesting their crops at the same time so the markets are full of vegetables.

“There are many families who are benefiting from the low prices as they can buy cheap vegetables for their families.”
Abdullah considers this season as the best of the year, as all family members can earn money from selling the vegetables and can eat from their farmlands.

“The vegetable from my farm taste like honey to me. When I buy vegetables from the market, they don’t taste like the ones from my farm, which are so fresh. Sometimes I even cook them myself.”

“The vegetable from my farm taste like honey to me”
Abdullah believes that the high cost of seeds in Yemen is still the main problem threating this new wave of farming, especially because this is still the first year and so farmers are spending what they earn on basic goods.

“A packet of 1,000 zucchini seeds costs YER45,000. I as a farmer can’t buy it for this price, it is very difficult for me to save YER45,000 from what the vegetables earn this year.”

He confirmed that the farmers would be happy to continue farming if they get help with the seeds.

“Farmers now are in the middle of the journey, and they still need support. If they get more support next year they will keep going, as they are unemployed and don’t have any other work to do.”
Abdullah thanks NRC for this support. “NRC helped to re-light the good feeling in the hearts of farmers.”

Text: Nasser Abdulkareem/NRC
Photo: Khalid Al-Banna/NRC