Armed conflict and climate change threaten the continuity of a 3,000-year-old practice in Yemen. The country has long been known for producing some of the best honey in the world, but huge losses have been inflicted on the industry since the conflict broke out in 2011. Successive waves of displacement to flee violence, the impact of weapons contamination on production areas and the growing impact of climate change are placing thousands of beekeepers in uncertainty, significantly reducing production.
Last year, the International Committee of the Red Cross provided aid to more than 1.6 million Yemeni people, including more than 3,700 beekeepers and 112,000 livestock farmers. This year, support continues in both training and financial aid. The ICRC supports sustainable income-generating activities, such as beekeeping, to empower the Yemeni people and help them be more independent in the long run.
The history of beekeeping in Yemen goes back at least to the beginning of the 1st millennium BC.
According to UN figures, about 100,000 Yemeni households are engaged in beekeeping and depend on it as their sole source of income. Active front lines prevent beekeepers from moving across the country to graze their bees. In addition, dozens of beekeepers have reportedly died trying to cross the front lines while grazing their bees or trying to sell their products.
“The mountain range on Yemen’s west coast is a historic center for honey production, but the same area has been a battleground for the past eight years,” said Amin, a honey producer from Taiz, one of the cities hard hit by the ongoing conflict. “The worst day of my life was when a rocket landed on my bee colony. Since then, the situation has worsened; the business is no longer lucrative, the bees are deranged and life has gone from bad to worse.”
Challenges of Conflict
The presence of landmines and unexploded ordnance poses a serious threat to all Yemenis, as there are more than 1 million landmines and improvised explosive devices scattered across the country, killing and maiming civilians every day. Being a beekeeper in areas highly affected by violence means a greater risk of being targeted by parties to the conflict as bees graze in places close to active front lines. This situation has forced thousands of beekeepers to leave the honey industry and pursue other professions that require less exercise. “I have been forced to stay in my area, which also makes me dependent on just one production season and that is not enough to support my children,” said Youssef, a beekeeper from Hajja Governorate.
Climate change affects livelihoods
To make matters worse, Yemen, like many other conflict-affected countries, is disproportionately affected by climate change. Temperature increases in recent years, combined with serious environmental changes, are disrupting the bee ecosystem, affecting the pollination process. In 2022 there was less than normal precipitation. With groundwater levels falling and desertification increasing, areas that previously had farming and beekeeping are no longer able to sustain themselves.
“I don’t just blame the conflict for what happens to us. It has not rained in months and there are fewer flowers,” says Amin, the honey producer from Taiz. “My children had to leave school to work in other sectors, because my business is no longer sufficient to meet the needs of my family. to provide.” .
Yemen is already witnessing an alarming level of food insecurity with more than 16 million Yemenis facing the serious problem. Nearly 50,000 people live in famine-like conditions in Hajjah, Amran and Al Jawf. Across Yemen, vulnerable families are being pushed to the brink by the combined impact of armed conflict and climate change.
Red Cross is committed to aid in Yemen
For its part, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is committed to helping the Yemeni people. The ICRC continues food and non-food aid to people in need in different parts of the country, rehabilitation of health and water infrastructure and supports physical rehabilitation centers in Sana’a, Sa’ada, Taiz, Aden and Mukalla, where thousands of mine victims and other persons with disabilities disabilities continue to receive the care they need, including artificial limbs and physical therapy.
The ICRC, in close cooperation with the Yemeni Red Crescent Society (YRCS) and other movement partners, continues its efforts to alleviate the suffering of affected communities through the extensive network of YRCS volunteers in 22 branches across the country, enabling better access to affected people.
Read more about the ICRC and its work in Yemen here.