Lessons learned from Yemen NCAP Project

Submitted by Sukaina Bharwani | published 25th Mar 2011 | last updated 30th Mar 2011

Lessons Learned from Yemen Project

The choice of adaptation strategy depends on the dictates of the particular case study region, including both physical and stakeholder inputs. While pilot adaptation measures were not implemented as part of the effort, considerable effort was spent on scoping out the highest priority pilot scale adaptation for each area with help from local institutions. Using an MCA analysis among local stakeholders, the highest priority initiative was identified in each area as an input to future planning efforts. The scoping effort included a sequenced plan for implementation and monitoring of the initiative as well as a cost estimate for required materials and labor. A brief summary is offered below.

  • Sadah Basin: Drip irrigation and building small dams were identified as the highest priority initiatives, with drip irrigation preferred from a long-term perspective, especially for drought conditions. Monitoring of the effectiveness of the initiative would be based on rapid rural appraisal techniques carried out in conjunction with local institutions and government extension offices. Even with strong local support for these initiatives, they will be insufficient to stop full depletion of the aquifer in the near future under reference scenario assumptions.
  • Sana’a Basin: Stakeholders identified improving indigenous methods for wadi flow use as the highest priority initiative. The farming communities along this wadi are well aware of the need to harvest wadi storm flows. The area is littered with small structures in varying states of disrepair designed primarily to divert spate flow onto adjacent land to replenish soil moisture and groundwater. Approximately 23 check dams would be constructed on the main watercourse of the Asser Wadi watershed to reduce runoff flow and to enhance groundwater recharge.
  • Aden City: The implementation of drip irrigation was identified as the best strategy in terms of water savings both in terms of distribution and application of water on farmlands. This strategy was preferred by stakeholders over others, but is more expensive. As the majority of farmers are poor and barely coping with existing living costs, subsidization or donor support would be needed for implementation.

The key lesson learned from the study is that Yemen will continue to suffer from a pressing water crisis in the absence of strategies to stabilize water supply and demand patterns. Of particular note is the fact that climate variability and climate change is less influential than current and predicted patterns of agricultural and household water consumption. At the present time, annual withdrawals from groundwater resources exceed renewable resources by wide and unsustainable margins, and are likely to continue into the future without a vigorous policy intervention. Indeed, the analysis in the NCAP project has revealed that a collapse of water supply systems is likely to take place towards the end of the next decade in several important aquifers suggesting that timely interventions are urgently needed. At the technological level, improved efficiencies through drip irrigation and improved water distribution systems will have demonstrable effects when combined with other supporting adaptation initiatives.

The key strategic recommendation is that the time has arrived for water crisis management planning in Yemen. The situation in the Sadah Basin illustrates the critical nature of the looming collapse of water supply systems in all but one of the basins in the country. For these locations, as the analysis for Sadah has demonstrated, conventional approaches to adaptation will not be sufficient. As a first step, efforts need to be undertaken to systematically identify all such basins and characterize them relative to remaining exploitable water resources and business-as-usual consumption projections. Secondly, a crisis-level set of strategies should be formulated and analyzed relative to costs, benefits, and level of community hardship implied. With this information in hand, Yemen should codify such options into a robust, sustainable water development strategy, amenable to international donor support.