top of page

From farm to table: The importance of cultural practices that enhance food security in Yemen

Yemen: A catastrophic food crisis and promising cultural solutions


  • Yemen is facing the worst food security crisis in the world, with approximately 17.4 million people suffering from hunger, equivalent to 60% of the population.

  • Cultural food practices, such as traditional agriculture, crop diversity, and healthy diets, play an important role in enhancing food security and improving livelihoods.

  • Yemen is characterized by a rich and diverse agricultural culture that includes intelligent irrigation techniques and diverse crops and livestock.


Yemen grapples with a catastrophic food crisis, leaving millions facing hunger and malnutrition. In comparison, the conflict rages on, and deeply rooted cultural practices embedded within Yemen's heritage offer promising solutions to mitigate the crisis and bolster long-term food security.

The food crisis in Yemen stands as the worst in the world, with an estimated 17.4 million people facing hunger, constituting 60% of the population. The ongoing conflict, poverty, and drought exacerbate the crisis, leading to severe hunger, malnutrition, displacement, disease, and even death resulting from undernutrition.

Undoubtedly, ending the conflict remains paramount to definitively addressing Yemen's humanitarian crisis. Alongside funding for relief efforts, supporting livelihoods, and other measures, promoting deeply rooted cultural food practices can undoubtedly play a significant role in alleviating this crisis.

The Significance of Cultural Practices in Food Security

Cultural foodways, encompassing the knowledge, practices, and beliefs related to food production, consumption, and preparation, hold immense power in enhancing food security at local, regional, and global levels. Traditional agricultural practices, often incorporating crop and varietal diversity, bolster the resilience of food systems to pests, diseases, and climate change.

Furthermore, food value chains associated with cultural foodways provide employment and income-generating opportunities for local communities, particularly in rural areas. Traditional diets, often rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, promote healthy and balanced eating habits.

Yemen's Rich Agricultural Heritage

Yemen boasts a rich and diverse agricultural heritage, accumulated over centuries and adapted to diverse environmental conditions and challenges. Common cultural agricultural practices in Yemen include:

  • Flood, tank, and watershed irrigation

  • Terraced farming

  • Crop diversity of grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables

  • Animal husbandry, including sheep rearing, beekeeping, and fishing

  • These practices represent integral aspects of Yemeni culture, intertwining with various facets of life. Beekeeping, for instance, holds deep cultural significance, with honey valued as a precious, blessed food and a trusted medicine.

The Culinary Tapestry of Yemen

Yemeni cuisine stands out for its remarkable diversity and richness, influenced by various civilizations and cultures over time, resulting in a unique blend of flavors and methods. A notable characteristic of Yemeni cuisine is the wide variety of dishes, encompassing main courses, appetizers, and desserts. These dishes vary across regions and environmental conditions, imparting distinct and unique flavors.

Grains, including wheat, barley, sorghum, and rice, form essential components of Yemeni cuisine, featuring in numerous dishes like aseed and mandi. Fish also holds a prominent position, especially in coastal regions, featuring in various culinary preparations.

Cultural Foodways: Pathways to a Sustainable Future

Cultural foodways offer valuable solutions to enhance food security and ensure a sustainable future for all Yemenis. By recognizing, revitalizing, and integrating these practices into development strategies, we can empower communities to:

  • Conserve biodiversity and ecosystem services

  • Enhance resilience to climate change

  • Improve nutrition and health outcomes

  • Strengthen local economies and livelihoods

  • Preserve cultural heritage and identity

As Yemen navigates the complexities of the current crisis, embracing and promoting cultural foodways can serve as a beacon of hope, fostering a more secure, sustainable, and culturally vibrant future.


@FAOYemen @UNESCOarabic @WFPYemen @WorldBank @IFADarabic


bottom of page