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How does Yemeni cuisine relate to food security in Yemen?

Updated: Dec 31, 2023

Yemeni food stands out as a potential means of mitigating challenges to food security. Food and livelihoods can be provided by promoting the growth of capacities in the areas of consumption and production of these foods.

Yemeni food
Yemeni food

When we think of security, we frequently think of military security. While this is mostly correct, military security is classified as conventional security alongside non-traditional security categories such as food security, health security, water security, and livelihood security.

Non-traditional security concerns not only states but also individuals, and while non-traditional security may not be considered a threat to the state's survival, it does call into question the state's ability to safeguard impacted populations. In Yemen, depleting groundwater resources directly threatens agricultural production because the sector consumes 90% of withdrawn water, leaving home and industrial consumption at 8% and 2%, respectively. In Yemen, the number of people suffering from severe acute food insecurity is high. Imported food items account for around 70% of Yemen's food by volume, with 97% relying on grain imports. Imported food accounts for 83% of Yemenis' daily calorie intake.

In light of these issues, traditional Yemeni recipes and traditional food in Yemen stand out as one option to combat food security risks. Encouragement of capacity development in the fields of consumption and production of these foods will be advantageous in terms of providing food and livelihoods.

Yemeni cuisine has a wide range of recipes, the components for which are frequently sourced locally. They are both popular and healthful meals, but some of them have recently begun to lose favor.

Meat-based meals such as mandi and madhbi, as well as harees, date porridge, dried fish (such as lakhm), sardines (eid), sweets such as bint al-sahn, pastries such as bakhmari, vegetable soup known as sannah or sannauna, and many other recipes that express Yemeni identity and culture, are among the most popular types in Yemen.

Dates, honey, meat, and vegetables are among the basic ingredients in many Yemeni cuisine recipes, but their prices have risen not only as a result of the war's direct effects, such as a decline in purchasing power but also as a result of environmental and climatic factors. Honey production, for example, has become endangered and more expensive as a result of the decrease in the Sidr trees, which bees graze on to produce the greatest types of Yemeni honey. Extreme weather events in Yemen, such as floods, lead beekeepers to suffer significant losses when the floods wash away the houses of bees that graze in the lowlands.

Agriculture decline, high irrigation expenses, and water constraints have caused a severe drop in date and vegetable production in Yemen. Unregulated fishing reduces the supply of many popular species of fish, such as sardines, while a lack of pastures raises the cost of sheep herding. Competition from foreign foods and recipes reduces the appeal of native recipes.

Increasing trust in traditional meals and encouraging the production of their fundamental ingredients will surely contribute to addressing food security concerns in Yemen, boosting population health, and providing wholesome food grown on their land. It will also result in more equal livelihood opportunities in agriculture, beekeeping, and fishing. As a result, development plans in Yemen should include encouraging local food production and developing plans for its sustainability, as well as helping the population relate more to their identity and culture, which has proven to provide them with good immunity against shocks and crises.


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