Adaptation to climate change using agro-biodiversity resources in the rainfed highlands of Yemen
Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the world with over 40% of the population living in poverty, and a low per capita GDP of US$930. Agriculture is the largest employer in the country and more than half of the country's cultivated area is under rain-fed and subsistence farming conditions. For the nearly 84% of the poor in the rural areas that depend on rain-fed agriculture, it is the primary source of livelihood and food security. Rain-fed agriculture is also highly vulnerable to the impacts of Climate Change. According to Yemen's National Adaptation Program of Action [NAPA], and based on IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change) projections, temperatures across the country are expected to rise anywhere between 1.4 and 2.8 degrees Celsius by 2050. Precipitation and cloud cover patterns are more uncertain, and rainfall variability is likely to be more pronounced, i.e. it is projected to decrease by about 24% or increase by about 35%, depending on the global circulation model used to generate the scenarios. Given the uncertainty presented by current climate models, the precise extent of the vulnerability of rain-fed agriculture is not known and needs to be assessed, while any coping options designed need to be flexible. The agro-biodiversity of the Yemeni highlands has the potential to build climate resilience of rain-fed agriculture. Together with the traditional farming knowledge of the farmers, this agro-biodiversity has been the cornerstone of communities‟ ability to adapt to changing climatic conditions in the past. Several land races found in the highlands today are a result of purposive selection by farmers to meet local soil and climatic conditions. In addition, many wild relatives of these crops and other wild species found in field edges and remnant natural habitats have forage and medicinal value. The agro-ecosystems of this region are rich in land races of several important crops- sorghum, barley and chick pea, which have a history of early domestication in this area. However, information on these resources is being lost as some farmers migrate to towns and others adopt modern high yielding varieties and increasingly depend on irrigation for farming. With systematic documentation and testing for climate resilience, however, these agro-biodiversity resources and the farmers' knowledge have the potential to climate proof‟ rain-fed agriculture in the highlands.
The Agro-biodiversity and Climate Adaptation Project (ACAP) project addresses this issue through four interlinked components. Under Component 1 of the project an inventory of local agro-biodiversity and traditional knowledge is developed. Important local land races for food, fodder and medicinal value are identified and selected land races are tested for climate resilience so that farmers can adopt those for better yield. The assessments also identify micro-enterprises as potential for alternative income generation through sustainable use of agro biodiversity in the area. Component 2 provides the building blocks for development of national capacity in climate modelling and analysis. The activities financed under this component include raising awareness on climate change and development of technical capacity for climate data collection, assessment and modelling. A pilot centralised database on climate data that is linked and shared by several agencies has been initiated. The knowledge and information generated under Components 1 and 2 are used in Component 3. The activities financed under this component includes: (a) capacity development of the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation (MAI), through technical training of staff and development of a national climate resilient rain-fed agriculture strategy, and training and awareness for community members on climate change and its relevance for rainfed farming; and, (b) development and piloting of a menu of coping strategies in partnership with the communities in four governorates. Coping strategies could be information, technologies or techniques that enable farmers to adapt their agricultural practices to changing climatic conditions. These include - better management of natural resources, early warning systems that alert farmers to changing weather conditions; different sowing, intercropping, fertilizing, pruning, irrigation and harvesting protocols; and, sustainable pest management techniques. Coping strategies are be implemented:
(i) by developing agro-biodiversity based natural resource management plans which will include activities such as upgrading terraces, water harvesting structures, flood protection measures, agro-biodiversity conservation measures, etc. and,
(ii) through small scale income generation activities that are based on use and conservation of local agro-biodiversity. These activities are seen as 'win-win', as they help in sustainable management of natural resources in the short term and also enhance local incomes. In the long term these activities would help in developing climate resilience.
Component 4 will focus on project management, coordination and monitoring and evaluation. The project implementation manual (PIM) contains detailed information to guide the PCU and FUs in implementation.
Sustainability of global benefits, institutional continuity, and replication of benefits are core elements in the design of this project. First, the ACAP is placed in the Irrigation and Land Reclamation Sector (ILRS) in the Ministry of Agriculture under the leadership of the Deputy Minister, which is responsible for climate issues in the agriculture sector. The Deputy Minister is also the representative of the Ministry in the Inter-Ministerial committee on Climate Coordination. This ILRS is the lead agency from Ministry of Agriculture under the National Water Sector Strategy, and leads the work related to climate, water and agriculture through the National Irrigation Program. Second, in terms of institutional sustainability and replication, the project is embedded in the implementation of two on-going IDA funded projects: the Groundwater and Soil Conservation Project, and the Rainfed Agriculture Livestock Project which will allow immediate uptake and scale-up of the coping mechanisms. Third, the project will assist in the development of a climate resilient rainfed agriculture strategy which will ensure that future programs and projects in the rainfed area take climate and agro-biodiversity issues into account - hence ensuring greater social, economic and environmental sustainability in this sector.