The FAO is currently working on projects such as a programme to eliminate the red palm weevil from Hadramout, Yemen’s main date palm-growing region, as well as an ongoing initiative to control the spread of locusts. The agency is also supporting 1,470 families in Amran province, with supplies of agricultural equipment and seeds.
“We are determined to intensify our activities and stay in Yemen to practice our tasks more effectively than the previous days,” said Salah Hajj Hassan, FAO representative in Yemen, at an event at the National Centre for Monitoring and Controlling Desert Locust last week.
Pest control priority
Efforts to stop the spread of locusts are particularly urgent, as the FAO issued warnings of swarms in Yemen last month. The agency’s renewed support for Yemen’s locust centre, which was the recipient of US$250,000 in US aid funding, will see the facilities supplied with new equipment and vehicles, and developed to allow them to deal with locust swarms in the future.
In Hadramout, home to 40% of Yemen’s date palms, the pests are different but no less dangerous. Since the red palm weevil’s arrival in the province in May 2013, the Yemeni government and the FAO have been working to develop ways to detect the parasite and prevent its spread, including audio monitoring systems attached to trees to hear the insects within the trunk.
Yemen was one of the last countries in the region to become host to the weevil, with the Asian pest arriving in Saudi Arabia in 1987, Egypt in 1992, and Oman in 1993. The beetle’s larvae, hatched from anything up to 500 eggs laid in the crown, burrow into the palm trunk and destroy the tree from the inside out.
While Yemen is not a major date growing country on the scale of Saudi Arabia or Egypt, it still produces around 75,000 tonnes of dates a year. More immediately, the date harvest supports around 225,000 people in the country, mostly in Hadramout, making the FAO’s efforts critical.
Wheat harvest boost
In Amran, the FAO’s main priority is also to support the thousands of people dependent on agriculture in the region. Its relief efforts saw it distribute onion and tomato seeds to Amran farmers, along with support for wheat and sorghum crops.
Peter Schmidt, deputy representative for the FAO in Yemen, said these relief efforts would allow farmers to cultivate 700 hectares, and boost wheat harvests by 30% to 3 tonnes per hectare. The onion and tomato crops would also improve the nutritional balance of the region’s harvests, he added.