Saudi forces backed by the United States are intentionally targeting food production and the agricultural sector in their bombing campaign in Yemen, according to a leading expert. In some parts of the impoverished country, the Saudi-led coalition is using a “scorched-earth strategy,” says a scholar who specializes in agriculture in Yemen.
“The coalition was and is targeting intentionally food production, not simply agriculture in the fields,” Martha Mundy, a professor emeritus at the London School of Economics, told Salon.
Since March 2015, a coalition of Middle Eastern countries led by Saudi Arabia and armed and supported by the U.S. and Britain has bombed Yemen, creating what the United Nations has characterized as one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes in the world.
A blockade imposed by Saudi Arabia has further exacerbated this crisis, pushing hunger-stricken Yemen to the brink of famine. “An entire generation could be crippled by hunger,” a World Food Program official warned this week. At least 14 million Yemenis, more than half of the country’s population, are going hungry.
Meanwhile, the Western-backed coalition is going out of its way to target food sources in the desperate country, according to Mundy, who in recent years has published scholarly articles in English and Arabic on the political economy of food and agricultural policy in Yemen.
Saudi-led forces have for 19 months have tried to topple Yemen’s Houthi movement, which seized power in late 2014, in order to restore to power the former pro-Saudi leader Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who had been appointed president in 2012 after an ostensible election with no opposition candidates.
“In the first three months of the war the targets were largely military, but when surrender did not result, the pattern of targeting changed,” Mundy told Salon via email.
In a recent The Independent article, Mundy said the Saudi coalition is “deliberately targeting Yemen’s tiny agricultural sector in a campaign which, if successful, would lead a post-war Yemeni nation not just into starvation but total reliance on food imports for survival.”