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Restoring the Terraces in Saba

The inhabitants of the mountains of Yemen have an age-old tradition of managing water for irrigation, in particular through a system of terraces that distribute rainwater. To stop the slow erosion of these terraces, UN experts have set up a dialog with the local farmers in view of developing simple restoration methods.

The mountains of Yemen culminate at 3.300 m and it rains there sufficiently, rare thing on the Arabic peninsula, to allow cultures thanks to the irrigation. The Yemenis have elaborate networks of terraces which distribute precipitations correctly and preserve the ground. But these terraces are fragile and, if one collapses, it is like a set of dominos. This phenomenon is occuring in a gradual way. Thanks to the UNDP, the things are changing in the basin of Wadi Zabid in an unusual way. Help is not given to the central government, but to the traditional social structures. Moreover, the experts do not come with their solutions, they are there to examine the problems and the priorities that villagers themselves identified. It was thus discovered that the villagers knew perfectly about the causes of the problems but had never discussed it COLLECTIVELY before. The deforestation of the sloping mountainsides (for the cattle needs and the domestic needs) induced the disappearance of the vegetation which was not shaded any more, and thus the collapse of the terraces too expensive to repair (in working times). The project implies all the community, women and children included, to replant and repair the terraces with simple and cheap means. This experiment succeeded thanks to the intelligent work of Yemeni and English experts (Arid Lands Initiatives) who went and listened to villagers and succeeded in avoiding the slow and sometimes sterilizing bureaucracies. Beautiful example of happy synergy between "experts" and village communities which deserves to be known.


Larbi Bouguerra
Scientific Journalist. Director of the (...)
+ de 8 article(s)


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