Yemen

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Yémen

Sana’a- Yémen – la vieille ville © Yann Arthus-Bertrand

This land of high altitude plateaux (the capital, Sana’a, is 2,400m in elevation) and deserts, called Arabia Felix (Happy Arabia), has a population of about 23 million people for 527 970km² (203,837 sq mi). It is the most arable country in the peninsula and it was, until the 18th century, the only global exporter for coffee, thanks to its moutain range that benefits from the sea winds. Located in a semiarid area, it is threatened today with desertification : it is one of the 10 poorest countries for water and it has no perennial river. With its 1,906 km seaside on the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, the halieutic resources play an important role.

Issues

Water stress : while the country lacks water, the cultivation of khat (a flowering plant whose leaves are chewed by the region’s inhabitants, as in Ethiopia) monopolizes the farmable lands and drains 90 % of the water extracted from the aquifer. In the Sana’a basin, the wells are digged deeper and deeper, 99 % of which without authorization. The situation is particularly alarming in the West, where 90 % of the population lives. In order to face the lack of water, a hunt for clouds has just been experimented.

Soil erosion : the deforestation of mountain sides and the collapsing of terraces that redistribute rainwater cause a massive soil erosion.

Pesticides : using tampered pesticides is common, but thanks to official policies, their importation went down 50 % in 2008.

Protected areas : the country has 1 national park and 1 maritime national park (Zuqar Islands), 4 nature reserves and 47 protected areas. Listed since 2008 in the world natural heritage, the Socotra Island shelters the famous Dracaena cinnabari (the Socotra Dragon Tree, aka the Dragon Blood Tree), an umbrella-shaped tree whose resin has been used for ages as a dye, or “dragon-blood”.

Endangered species : by making djambia daggers handles from rhinoceros horn, the Yemeni strengthen the commerce of an endangered species. There is an alternative : the agate handles are becoming more and more fashionable.

Players

The Prime Minister Abdul-Qader Ba-Jammal was appointed Champion of the Earth in 2008 by the UNEP because he created both the Water and Environment Ministry and an agency for the development of the islands and the preservation of maritime resources .

To increase population awareness of water management, a humorous video clip was broadcasted featuring an animated raindrop called Rowyan, which means “I’ve had enough water”. It was the first initiative of the kind in this region.

The Yemen Society for Consumer Protection, a NGO created in 1997, defends the consumer rights and leads actions against pesticides.

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