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Savoirs locaux et agriculture durable au Yémen

Frédéric Pelat
Amin Al-Hakimi

Indigenous knowledge and sustainable agriculture in Yemen

Amin Al-Hakimi et Frédéric Pelat

Texte intégral

1This third publication of ‘Cahiers du CEFAS’ –previously named ‘Cahiers du CFEY’- results from a partnership with the Yemeni Genetic Resources Center (YGRC) and consists of 19 articles selected from the seminar The place of ancient agricultural practices and techniques in Yemen today: Problems and perspectives. This event was held in June 2000, at the Faculty of Agriculture of Sanaa University and in the CEFAS. It was organised by the University of Sanaa, the Yemeni Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation and the French Embassy’s Cultural and Cooperation Section and would not have taken place without the essential contribution of many other partners whose names are listed at the back of the publication.

2More than 30 anthropologists, archaeologists, geographers, historians, agronomists and development specialists, from Yemen and abroad, participated in the meetings. Far from being a nostalgic point of view on a potentially ‘unchanging’ Yemeni agriculture, protected from any ‘harmful’ modernisation of its practices and techniques, and at the same time, far from discrediting ‘excessive’ technological improvements and their effects on environment or food quality, this seminar was clearly dedicated to sharing ideas related to development operations in this mainly rural country, where any development policy has to, in all cases, rely upon farmers’ labour. During the past decades indeed, many projects in developing countries failed and faced problems of endangered local natural resources. This was mainly due to the carelessness of these projects regarding people’s knowledge and more generally due to the little consideration given to the beneficiary societies. Their knowledge, which was consequently neglected, finally disappeared.

3In Yemen, conditions are better than in other parts of the Arabian Peninsula, so that rural populations took advantage of these privileges. They shaped the mountain slopes into terraced systems in order to valorise the few available lands and runoff waters. They set up social systems of water management in a sustainable and equitable way adapted to their resource scarcity. They also developed an extensive technical knowledge as well as a diversified set of cultivated plants, adapted to the specific conditions of their environment. The high variability of Yemeni environments, the uneven landscape leading to isolation of populations, the strong attachment of tribal groups to their territory and land activities… all contributed to this creativity.

4Shouldn’t we then consider this knowledge and those genetic resources as a wealth, an heritage to be preserved? Wouldn’t be worth trying to better know and assess this knowledge before systematically rejecting it for the benefit of external knowledge, thought to fit with economical development considerations, still far from the local farmers’ perceptions? Isn’t there any means to adapt this knowledge to potential sustainable development programmes? Or traditional indigenous knowledge is definitely a constraint to any economical development, due to its incompatibility with present needs?

5These are the kinds of questions discussed during the seminar and to which one will be able to find some first answers in this collection of texts.

© Centre français de recherche de la péninsule Arabique, 2003

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