Photos: Yemen’s honey production hit by war and climate crisis | In pictures News

For Yemeni beekeeper Mohammed Saif, producing honey was once a lucrative business, but years of war and climate change have wiped out the buzz of family hives.

The business, passed down from father to son, is “slowly disappearing,” Saif said. “Bees are struck by strange phenomena. Is it due to climate change or the effects of war? We really don’t know.

Yemen, one of the world’s poorest countries, has been embroiled in a deadly conflict since 2014, pitting the Iran-backed Houthis against government forces backed by a Saudi-led military coalition.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in fighting or from disease and malnutrition over the past eight years, and the country’s infrastructure has been devastated.

But a fragile UN-brokered truce has been in effect since April, bringing some respite to the country and its war-weary people. In the southwest region of Taiz, Saif recently took stock of his beehives in a rugged valley surrounded by mountains.

Before the war, Saif said, the family managed 300 hives. There are only 80 left.

Experts consider Yemeni honey to be some of the best in the world, including the precious Royal Sidr known for its therapeutic properties.

The UN says honey plays a “vital role” in Yemen’s economy, with 100,000 households depending on it for their livelihoods. But “enormous losses have been inflicted on the industry since the beginning of the conflict,” the International Committee of the Red Cross said in a report in June.

“Armed conflict and climate change threaten the continuity of a 3,000-year-old practice,” the ICRC said.

“The successive waves of displacement to flee violence, the impact of contamination by weapons on production areas and the growing impact of climate change are pushing thousands of beekeepers into precariousness, considerably reducing production.”

Saif knows this all too well. “Last year, in our village, a missile hit the hives of a beekeeper. He lost everything,” he said.

“The war had a very bad impact on us. Fighters have targeted many areas where bees are found,” he added.

Bashir Omar of the ICRC said the conflict had limited the ability of beekeepers to freely roam the land whenever flowers were in bloom to harvest honey.

Landmines and active front lines are among the challenges they face.

“To make matters worse, Yemen, like many conflict-affected countries, is disproportionately affected by climate change,” the ICRC report notes.

“Rising temperatures in recent years, combined with the severe alterations caused to the environment, are disrupting the bee ecosystem, which impacts the pollination process,” he said.

“With falling water tables and increasing desertification, areas previously engaged in agricultural activities and beekeeping no longer support these livelihoods.”

The ICRC is providing financial support and training for beekeepers this year, following a similar initiative in 2021 that helped nearly 4,000 of them.

Nabil al-Hakim, who sells Yemen’s famous yellow nectar in shops in Taiz, also recalled the good old days before conflict ravaged his country.

“Before the war, we could make a good living selling honey… but honey has become scarce and customers can no longer afford it,” he said.

“Before, I sold up to 25 five-litre pots a month. Now I can’t even sell one.

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