Building resilience on the “Island Abode of Bliss”
Socotra, south of the Arabian Peninsula, means “island abode of bliss” in Sanskrit. It is a hub for people on holiday from around the world who go to enjoy the breathtaking landscape and fascinating fauna, as well as diving, snorkeling, and trekking.
But when Yemen’s war broke out in March 2015, the island’s economy was devastated. Flights from the mainland stopped and the tourism industry, the staple of Socotra’s economy, took a nosedive. Unemployment rates steadily rose, with devastating effects.
Mother Nature has also recently been unkind, with severe water scarcity particularly in rural areas, and devastating cyclones. These are expected to worsen with climate change, which makes the islanders’ standard of living increasingly precarious.
UNDP, in partnership with the World Bank, the Social Fund for Development (SFD) and partners in Socotra’s communities are working to create a brighter future for this troubled paradise.
Roads: Making way for food and supplies
Floods have severely damaged all vital lifelines to Humahil Reserve. Recently, though, with support from UNDP’s Yemen Emergency Crisis Response Project (YECRP) and SFD, over 500 villagers joined together to pave the road with machinery that is otherwise expensive to acquire. Villagers are hopeful that this round of repairs will last.
Water: Can’t live without it
“Life is impossible without water,” says Ali Abdullah Saad, the Coordinator of several Village Cooperative Councils. “We suffered from having to fetch water, which was mostly brought on the backs of women and children from the remote valley.”
YECRP also provides a cash-for-work programme so local people can earn money and provide villages with vital services and infrastructure, such as reservoirs, rainwater tanks, and other paved roads so laborers can connect homes to the water network. YERCP crews also build fences around reservoirs, so that animals and children won’t fall in and contaminate the water or get injured or die.
Crops and livestock: Family and local economies
Following catastrophic cyclones in 2018, floods hit many areas across Socotra. “The village is located at the foot of the mountain and when the floods and hurricanes hit, trees, sheep, and people were washed away,” explains Salif Salm, a resident of Tibra village. “In hopes of survival, people hid in the caves for several days until the storm subsided and floods passed.”
Residents of Tibra took part in six-month cash-for-work project to build a retaining wall that would protect the land and livestock of 50 families.
Another resident of Socotra, Manal Hussein, depends entirely on crops to feed her family. She and her seven children grow bananas, melons, tomatoes, potatoes, and chilis. But her crops experienced significant storm damage in 2015 and 2018. More than 290 families like Manal’s have benefited from the programme.
These activities are implemented as a part of UNDP’s World Bank funded and supported project, Yemen Emergency Crisis Response Project (YECRP), which is implemented by the Social Fund for Development (SFD) and the Public Works Project (PWP). The USD $400 million project provides economic stimuli in the form of large cash-for-work projects, support to small businesses, and labor-intensive repairs of socio-economic assets, benefiting vulnerable local households and communities across Yemen.
Story originally posted on UNDP.org. Editorial support by Paul VanDeCarr, Development Coordination Office. For more information on the United Nations' work in Yemen, please visit: Yemen.UN.org. To learn more about the results of our work in this area and beyond, please visit the UNSDG Chair Report on DCO.