Yemen is located at the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia. It occupies an area of approximately 203,850 square miles, the largest Arab country in the peninsula. Yemen has a coastline that stretches over 1,200 miles. Yemen is located in the Middle East and borders the Red Sea, the Gulf of Eden, and the Arabian Sea. The country has several climates including desert climate in the east, temperate climate in the west, and hot and humid climate along the west coast. Yemen has a rich reserve of minerals such as gold, copper, lead, nickel, coal, rock salt, and petroleum. The country is highly dependent on the declining oil resources for its revenue. Petroleum exports account for approximately 25% of the country’s GDP growth and over 70% of the government revenue. Yemen has tried to diversify its economy by instituting economic reforms programs to strengthen the other non-oil industries and foreign investments. As a result, the country was able to export its first liquefied natural gas in 2009. The mining industry accounts for 7% of the GDP.
Natural Resources of Yemen
Yemen is not one of the major producers of oil in the world. In fact, it is not even a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Yemen produces a small quantity of oil that it relies on foreign oil companies that have revenue sharing agreements with the government. Oil is the major source of revenue to the Yemeni government, accounting for 70-75% of all the revenues. It also accounts for approximately 90% of total exports. Yemen has a crude oil reserve of over 4 billion barrels, although the reserves are expected to be exhausted in nine years as production from the older fields is diminishing. In 1984, an American Company discovered an oil basin Ma’rib that produced a total of 170,000 barrels per day in 1995. An oil refinery was established in the area in 1986. A Soviet-discovered oil basin in Shabwah has only been marginally successful. Oil production in Hadhramaut and Masila reached 420,000 barrels per day in 1999.
According to a 2010 report, Yemen has a natural gas reserve of approximately 490 billion cubic meters. During the same year, the country exported approximately 6.9 billion cubic meters of liquefied natural gas. The abundance of the natural gas in Balhaf led to the construction of the first liquefaction plant in the area in 2009. The government expects to generate US$ 350 million from the LNG project and also establish an operational petrochemical industry.
Although Yemen has extensive access to water and marine resources, the fishing industry is largely underdeveloped and is mainly dominated by small-scale fishermen in small boats. The country has the potential to produce over 800 tons of fish annually. However, the production is only one-quarter of the capacity. The low production was also partly as a result of the restriction that was imposed the government on the fish export. The restriction has since been lifted but the fishing industry still yields low revenues. Although fish and fish products account for only 1.7% of Yemen’s GDP, they are the second largest export after oil and oil products. In 2005, the government of Yemen obtained a credit worth US$25 million from the World Bank for the Fisheries Management and Conservation Project which was to be launched along its coast. The project is expected to boost fish landing and processing facilities and enable the Yemeni fisheries department to undertake more effective research.
Yemen has vast metal resources including silver, gold, copper, zinc, cobalt, and nickel. Several companies have been licensed to prospect and explore several metal deposits in the country. Cantex Mine Development Corporation of Canada has been exploring the Al Hariqah gold deposit since 2010. Thani Daubi Mining of the UAE found some gold deposits in Wadi Sharis, which was estimated to produce 7 grams of gold per ton. It is estimated that there are 40 gold and silver deposits in Yemen, with Medden area having the largest deposit of about 670,000 tons which can yield 15 g and 11 g of gold and silver respectively. The Jabali silver and zinc mines owned and operated by the Jabal Salab Company is estimated to contain 12 million metric tons of oxide ores in the grade of 68 g/Mt of silver, 18.9% of zinc, and 1.2% lead. Apart from the metal resources, Yemen also has plenty of non-metal resources or industrial mineral deposits such as limestone, magnesite, scoria, sandstone, gypsum, marble, perlite, dolomite, feldspar, and Celestine.
Yemen contains the most fertile land in the Arabian Peninsula. The arable land in the country is approximately 1.2 million hectares or 2.4% of the total land area. The highest value of agricultural land over 54 years was 3.12% of the total land in 1996. Agriculture is one of the country’s main economic activities and contributes 20% of the GDP and employs almost half of the working population. Agriculture is mainly practiced in the coastal plains, highlands, wadis, and in the eastern plateaus. These areas are considered fertile and also have favorable climates. Due to the low levels of rainfall, agriculture relies on the use of groundwater. Irrigation has made it possible for vegetables and fruits to thrive as Yemeni’s primary cash crop. Other major commodities produced include cereals and industrial crops. Increased population has led to increased pressure on agricultural land, especially along the coastal areas.
Governance and Economy of Yemen
Yemen is one of the developing and poorest countries in the Middle East. According to Transparency International, Yemen is also one of the most corrupt countries in the world (position 164 out of 182). The country does not have a strong state institution with the elite politics constituted by the de facto form of collaborative governance. Yemen has been in a state of political crisis since 2011. The ongoing clashes in the country have hindered meaningful development. The Saudi Arabian government and the UN has blocked food imports, resulting in a famine that has affected over 17 million people.