Although the level of food insecurity in Yemen is alarming, it is also declining. In 2011, Yemen was among the bottom 10 countries of the world in terms of food security, but by the end of 2012, food security levels had almost reached pre-crisis levels, according to research presented at a workshop on “Reactivating the Yemen National Food Security Strategy,” held last month in Sana’a, Yemen.
The latest workshop was a follow-up to the December 2010 event that witnessed the launch of the first National Food Security Strategy (NFSS). As before, IFPRI helped provide evidence-based policy recommendations for the latest edition of the Strategy and is collaborating on its implementation, along with the Ministries of Planning and International Cooperation and other national ministries of agriculture, development, trade, health, water, and fisheries.
At the workshop, National Food Security Coordinator Khaled Saeed outlined the Strategy, and IFPRI Research Fellow Clemens Breisinger presented a seven-point plan for implementing it. Recommendations in the action plan include leveraging fuel-subsidy reform through direct transfers, improving targeted service provision, and promoting pro-food secure private investments in promising sectors. The plan also highlighted the following priority investment areas:
- Agriculture: Focus on improving productivity of pro-poor cash crops, cultivating coffee or cereals in place of qat, supporting agricultural research and extension, using land more efficiently, and implementing integrated water resource management.
- Health and nutrition: Focus on upgrading existing health centers, increasing training for medical practitioners, providing programs on nutrition and child care, and improving access to clean drinking water.
- Trade and transport: Focus on maximizing efficiency in supply chains to reduce post-harvest losses, improving infrastructure, roads, and markets; and maintaining around 300 million tons of strategic grain reserves.
- Welfare: Focus on expanding targeted conditional cash transfer programs and conducting public service campaigns about proper nutrition, breastfeeding, family planning, qat consumption, and gender equality.
The Yemeni government is ready to re-engage in its efforts to combat hunger and poverty, but doing so will require a high level of commitment from state and local counterparts as well as up-to-date information about the current and projected food security situation, nationally and regionally. Arab Spatial—a web-based database of food security indicators launched byIFPRI earlier this year—and other open-access repositories can provide Yemeni policymakers with the frequently updated data they need to move forward with implementation.
In an area rife with conflict, change at the regional and national levels is inevitable. But families suffering from chronic hunger and malnutrition are counting on reforms to provide more immediate relief. The current Strategy addresses change on all levels.