In Sudan and Yemen, women farmers tackle a rapidly changing climate
16 August 2022
In Yemen, where communities confront conflict and economic decline, temperatures have been rising faster than the global average over the last three decades. Across the country, droughts and floods periodically damage agricultural lands, reduce the availability of arable lands and threaten the livelihoods and food security of communities.
“Agriculture is the main source of income for our communities, but climate change has made farming difficult and brought a decline in our economy,” said Noha Alban, a community leader from Lahj, a governorate of Yemen.
Yemen is facing a decline in agricultural productivity and a shortage of seasonal crops on which the rural population depends, leading to increased food insecurity and high rates of malnutrition, as well as the continued shortage of groundwater and drinkable clean water.
"Before we started to experience drought, heavy rain and flooding, 80 per cent of our community worked on farms but now only 30 per cent can afford seeds or the other resources they need to continue farming,” said Noha.
In rural communities across Yemen, women are tackling the issue of climate change with grit and resilience.
Women often work as farmers and are increasingly becoming the sole breadwinners of their families, says Noha. They also play a pivotal role in food security and land management and help to mitigate tension over natural resources, like water, among local farming groups.
Noha is a member of one of the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) Conflict Resolution Committee, which were formed to address issues that arise in communities due to displacement and competition over resources.
Committee members work to raise awareness about environmental sustainability, social cohesion and peaceful solutions to conflicts through community dialogue and mediation.
"The majority of people here know the climate is changing but they do not know what kinds of precautions they can take. Women can help to reduce the risks of climate change by talking to people and raising their awareness," added Noha.
Noha and other committee members work closely with male and female farmers to improve and care for their agricultural crops, and educate them about the complications of climate change and the causes of floods and droughts.
"As a member of the Conflict Resolution Committee, I help to resolve these disputes. We also educate farmers and encourage them to support each other in the management of resources and their land," concludes Noha.
In Sudan, women lead their communities in the fight against climate change
Khartoum Abdulrahman Al Duma spent much of November harvesting sesame and peanuts on her farm in the Darfur region in Sudan.
In Darfur, land can be hard to sow; parts of the land are semi-arid and prone to droughts, which are becoming worse amid the climate crisis. The region has been beset by conflict for the past two decades, compounding the challenges for its inhabitants.
But Al Duma's crop turned out to be a bumper one—that yields an unusually abundant harvest. That's thanks in part to training she received under an initiative led by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
Called the Wadi El Ku Catchment Management Project, it trained Al Duma and dozens of other women on how to harvest, store and market their produce. For women in the region, many of whom have been widowed due to conflict, peanuts and sesame flowers are an important source of income.
"After selling our products and getting money, we can do many things, including sending our children to school and starting a small business," said Al Duma.
The training she received was part of a larger UNEP effort to create economic opportunities in Darfur, especially for women, and to help the region cope with a fast-changing climate. Perched on the southern reaches of the Sahara Desert, in a region known as the Sahel, Darfur has seen rainfall dwindle in recent years.
The Wadi El Ku project, which is concentrated in a river valley near the city of El Fasher in northwestern Sudan, has also supported the construction of weirs, or low dams, to conserve and regulate rainwater. In existence since 2014, the project has won praise for supporting local livelihoods and reducing conflict between nomadic livestock herders and farmers.
"Women are able to make a difference in several fields, including agriculture. But they need support and empowerment," said Mariam Abubakr, part of the Wadi El Ku project team. "We believe knowledge is our weapon to fight climate change and harvesting season proves that. I'm glad to see these women reap the fruits of their effort."
More recently, teams worked in five villages across the country to train women in modern farming techniques.
The women till 30-acre plots of land donated by local Sheikhs, or village elders. The project helped get the farms up and running—preparing land, providing ploughs, and donating ground nut, sesame and sorghum seeds. That support helped the women-led farms weather a dry growing season better than many others in their area.
This piece is based on two stories originally published by UN Yemen and UN Sudan. Editorial support provided by the Development Coordination Office (DCO).