Zakat Foundation Provides Power for Yemen Sesame Processors
On Famine’s Doorstep
Two-thirds of Yemen’s underfed, war-ravaged people now teeter on the edge of starvation. So Zakat Foundation of America has stepped up its food resilience program among sesame growers, using your gifts to buy stand-alone power sources for 65 Yemeni-owned oil-processing facilities.
“Prevent starvation. That’s our donors’ top priority in Yemen,” said Halil Demir, Zakat Foundation Executive Director, “with a long-term goal of increasing Yemen’s domestic food growing and supply. The sesame production chain is key.”
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Nearly 18 million Yemenis go without food some days or many days, suffering acute to life-threatening malnutrition, according to a late January report from the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET). About 15 million of them, or 2 million households, rely on agriculture for their living, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reports.
“Funding provided by the Zakat Foundation will procure equipment for cooking oil processors,” said Mary Strata, director of foundation partnerships for Mercy-Corps, Zakat Foundation’s partner in a food resilience project to help local Yemeni sesame producers increase yields and product sales.
What We Are Doing
Solar- and fuel-powered generators purchased with your Zakat Foundation charity can double sesame cooking oil presser production and increase incomes and food availability for people.
Cooking oil processors run 10 hours daily on average due to electricity shortages. That’s the finding of an independent study by a Yemeni expert contracted by the project, with the goal of raising domestic food production and incomes for everyone in the product chain.
The researcher evaluated 86 presses around the country to learn what local small-scale sesame oil producers needed to upgrade. They identified power shortages and irregular availability as their top problem.
Limited oil press runtimes discourage sesame growers from increasing yields because pressers buy from them only what they can process. That puts a ceiling on the volume of sesame oil on hand for consumption and the need for laborers. Together, that spells smaller incomes for farmers, workers, pressers and vendors, and inadequate cooking oil availability for Yemen’s desperately underfed people.
Will the World Turn Away?
Yemen is now home to the world’s biggest hunger crisis. About 8.4 million Yemenis live severely food insecure, meaning they are one phaseaway from dying of starvation. Around 1.8 million children from 6 months to 5 years old suffer acute malnutrition. Malnourishment also drains 1.1 million pregnant and nursing women.
On average, 130 children die every day in Yemen from lack of food and diseases like cholera and diphtheria, according to a November report by Save the Children.
Once self-sufficient in cereal crops and legumes — maize, millet, sorghum, pulses (humus, lentils, beans), and traditionally renowned for coffee — Yemen now imports a staggering 90 percent of its food and 80 percent of all other goods. But war blights even that source.
The Need Now
Zakat Foundation grants enabled the bidding process for generators to begin in December. But port blockades and embargoes have prevented their timely purchase and arrival. Zakat Foundation’s Mercy-Corps partner has now widened the scope to bring generators online as fast as possible.
Raising cooking oil production will benefit Yemen’s hungry victims of conflict another way, by decreasing skyrocketing prices. In December, cooking oil costs shot up as much as 61 percent due to import dependency, siege, and degraded port capability through targeted violence.
As a result, Yemen’s rial currency lost half its value in January, from 250 rials to 500 per U.S. dollar. This makes it even harder for Yemen’s poor and beleaguered to afford food.