In one of the verdant highland villages of Haraaz area, about 100 km west of the Yemeni capital Sanaa, farmers have begun to harvest coffee crop, amid tough challenges they face due to the raging war.
“We mainly rely on the rainy season to irrigate coffee plants since the war broke out more than four years ago, which cut electricity and triggered severe fuel shortage,” farmer Mohsen Al-Hamassi told Xinhua at his coffee farm in al-Hutib village east of Haraaz.
“Fuel prices on the black market have tripled, making it difficult for many farmers to run their own irrigation water pumps, and the solar energy to run the water pumps is very expensive,” he said, adding that only some can afford buying solar energy system.
The Yemeni coffee is highly sought after in the international markets due to its well-known high quality and delicious taste, but the prolonged conflict and all-out blockade have prevented farmers from increasing the production and exporting their crop abroad.
However, despite these challenges, the farmers have been trying to keep the tempo of coffee agriculture and production.
The Yemenis were the first to export coffee hundreds of years ago, through once a thriving Red Sea port of Mocha, also known as al-Mokha, about 250 km west of Haraaz.
The Mocha port now serves as a military base for the Saudi-led military coalition forces, which support the troops of the Yemeni government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi against the Iran-allied Houthi rebel group.
The coalition forces recaptured the port in July last year.
Al-Hamassi, 55, inherited the farm from his father, where his ancestors had grown coffee for hundreds of years. Al-Hamassi’s family is one of thousands of Yemeni families that entirely rely on coffee cultivation to earn a living.
Yemenis call the coffee beans “red rubies” and the farmers chant folk songs loudly during the harvest.
After collecting the red coffee beans from the trees and packing them in plastic bags, the farmers carry them on their backs and put them in pickup trucks, which then transport the crop through rugged mountain roads to nearby locations where the crop is unloaded in large open containers intended for drying the crop in the sun.
After drying the crop for several days, the farmers then pack the crop in bags and sell them to local traders who transport the beans to the peeling and grinding plants and sell the coffee powder to local retailers and exporters.
Coffee is one of the most important Yemeni products, but the ongoing war has badly affected farmers and coffee growing, and caused production to decline.
Yasmin, a student at Sanaa University, said the coffee is an Arab symbol of hospitality during the reception of guests and a symbol of love during family activities. She compared the feeling of drinking coffee to the pleasure of reading a book, drawing classical art or listening to music.
“I bet Yemeni coffee is good to the last drop,” Yasmin added.