A child helps his family harvest sorghum in the Midi district of Hajjah province, northern Yemen on June 19, 2022. (Photo by Mohammed Al-Wafi/Xinhua)
"Despite working for long hours every day under the torching sun, at the harvest we earn nothing," a local farmer complained as his harvested sorghum cannot reach the buyers because of the siege imposed by the Houthis.
HAJJAH, Yemen, June 22 (Xinhua) -- When the sorghum in their fields is finally ripe, farmers in Yemen's northwestern province of Hajjah feel no joy or excitement, only worries and anxieties.
"Most of the crops will end up rotten," Issa Jalhouf, a farmer in Hajjah, said before his sorghum field in the Midi district of Hajjah.
Jalhouf explained that although sorghum is not a traditional food for local villagers, he chose to grow it because it is relatively easy to cultivate and he had plans for selling it to other cities, even abroad. But his plans didn't work amid the tight siege by the Houthi group.
"The siege prevents us from reaching other cities to sell the crop," the Yemeni man complained, adding that his harvest also faced the threats of birds, insects, and eventually time.
Jalhouf and his family had been toiling in the field to harvest the sorghum and carefully preserved the sorghum seeds under straws in the hope that they can find buyers before the crops perish.
A Yemeni man holds a bundle of sorghum in the Midi district of Hajjah province, northern Yemen on June 19, 2022. (Photo by Mohammed Al-Wafi/Xinhua)
"Despite working for long hours every day under the torching sun, at the harvest we earn nothing," he lamented, adding that many of the farmers in the village had abandoned their fields because farming brings not profits but loss for them.
While cultivating sorghum seems a bad business decision for Jalhouf, the farmer explained that he had little option.
"The siege is tightened around us from every direction and cuts off all roads leading to other regions. We cannot buy fertilizers, pesticides, or spare parts for agricultural equipment," said Jalhouf, a father of five, adding sorghum, known for its low maintenance, was his only choice.
Children help their family harvest sorghum in the Midi district of Hajjah province, northern Yemen on June 19, 2022. (Photo by Mohammed Al-Wafi/Xinhua)
Local officials told Xinhua that despite a national truce, the Houthi group, which controls a large part of the northern Hajjah province, has tightened the siege on Midi, causing great damage to the region's agriculture sector.
According to the local authorities' estimate, only 26.7 percent of the district's arable lands are being cultivated while thousands of the residents in the district are facing a severe food shortage.
Just a couple of miles from Jalhouf's sorghum field, Yousif Fayed and his family, who are busy harvesting their sorghum, shared Jalhouf's woes.
A Yemeni man uses a traditional agricultural tool to extract the kernels of sorghum in the Midi district of Hajjah province, northern Yemen on June 19, 2022. (Photo by Mohammed Al-Wafi/Xinhua)
"I didn't expect that a day would come when I wouldn't be able to sell some of my crops for one meal. There are no markets here, no buyers, and we can't travel to other cities," Fayed said, adding that many farmlands and roads were buried with landmines, which makes farming a hazardous vocation in the district.
"This year I cultivate two different crops, sorghum, and tomatoes. But either of them can bring me enough profits," he grumbled while cutting off the sorghum ears with a sickle.
Hajjah used to be an intense front of armed conflicts between the Yemeni government and the Houthi militia. While the governmental forces recaptured most of the province in 2018, the Houthis have been imposing a strict siege on part of the strategic province. ■