As the fragile peace in Yemen holds and with serious food insecurity concerns persisting, the European Union (EU) and FAO have announced new EU funding of €5.9 million ($6.7 million) to support the UN agency's work to build the country's capacity to monitor threats to food security and collect key data on hunger and malnutrition.
Accurate, comprehensive data/information on threats to livelihoods and households' food security status are critical to effectively target humanitarian assistance to where and when it is most needed. FAO's efforts also aim to improve Yemen's ability to monitor emerging threats to food security and livelihoods, such as poor weather or crop pests and diseases, so that appropriate livelihood support - irrigation services, or feed for livestock, for example - can be provided, before impacts are felt.
"Availability of reliable and timely data not only means we can respond better when crises impact food security, as is the case now - it is also the foundation on which the government, humanitarian and development agencies can build up people's resilience, to withstand future food insecurity," said FAO's Country Representative in Yemen, Salah El Hajj Hassan.
"Unfortunately, trends indicate that recurrent hazards and shocks will continue to threaten Yemen. But, if we support people to build up their resilience, they will be better positioned to cope with these adversities, thus averting the threat of hunger and humanitarian crises," he added.
The European Union Ambassador for Yemen, Antonia Calvo Puerta, said: "The severity and magnitude of food insecurity in Yemen is putting an immense pressure on the majority of the population who are in dire need of (humanitarian) aid. The availability of nutrition information and food security will allow an appropriate and efficient response by the International Community to the crisis and prevent further deterioration. Thus, the EU is confident that this renewed collaboration with FAO will benefit the Yemeni population at a large scale."
FAO support will be provided to different government institutions including the Governorate Focal Units, Food Security Technical Secretariat of the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation, Yemen's lead agency for collecting and channeling food security information to other government institutions, development partners, donors and communities.
The support will include training on food security, livelihood and nutrition, market information, Geographic Information System and remote sensing. This will enable the review of agriculture and food security sector policies and strategies, data base management and statistical analysis, Integrated Phase Classification (IPC) analysis, Early Warning data collection.
The project will address the technical and institutional capacity gaps by providing ICT and other equipment as well as training to improve staff skills. Much of this work will take place at the governorate and district level, where local teams will be established to collect data and information on agriculture, livestock, crop, meteorological data, nutrition, disease outbreaks, market and other food security data in rural and urban areas.
These efforts will build on the EU-FAO's successful experience in strengthening the capacity of local food security data-collection units in 13 governorates during the 2013-2018 period. The new EU funding will now allow extending the support to the nine remaining governorates, ensuring the establishment of the Governorate Focal Units and Food Security Information System across all of Yemen. The FAO-EU agreement for this next phase of work was formally finalized and signed on 31 January 2019.
A new, data-driven approach for humanitarian and development work
While the primary risk in Yemen today is conflict, farmers there must also cope with recurring threats like high prices of inputs, water shortages, crop and animal disease epidemics and locust invasions. Robust food security data systems allow for development interventions that go beyond responding to crises after they occur, but which build local resilience so that future shocks do not lead to food crises.
This is why the EU has engaged with FAO and other partners to champion a new vision for greater collaboration among humanitarian and development partners, via initiatives like the Global Network against Food Crises, which seeks to address and prevent food crises by meeting immediate needs while tackling the root causes of those crises.