Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Arabia felix?

""We dream of meat," Mahdi, a 32-year-old farmer who grows mostly the intoxicating plant qat, said shortly before the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha when people usually feast on lamb or beef.
Some families are said to be feeding qat leaves to their children to suppress their hunger pangs. Many Yemenis regularly chew qat in the afternoons to get a mild high, but it has no nutritional value.

Four decades ago, Yemen could feed itself, with millennia-old terraced farms working off wells and rainwater, often channeled through aqueducts. Since then, however, the population has increased more than fivefold, and population growth remains an extremely high 3 percent. The country now imports 90 percent of its wheat and all its rice.

For the past 20 years, the government has been funding the imports — and buying the loyalty of powerful tribes — with the nation's modest oil reserves, which provide about three quarters of the budget.

But the oil is running out. In 2007, Yemen pumped out 317,000 barrels per day, down from 400,000 in 2005. Economists estimate that within five years, oil revenue will no longer be enough to pay government salaries.

Water is also running out, as farmers dig deeper and deeper wells, depleting already low ground water."

This IHT article is my first non-Gaza post in a long while. Not that it is any happier.

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