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What is the Libna?

The difficulties of not having Système International (SI) units!

SI units are the globally-agreed system of measurements where one metre or one kilometre means the same unit of measurement everywhere in the world. The problem we face is that Coffee cultivation within Yemen pre-dates these internationally agreed system which only came into existence in 1960. Yemen, according to the earliest credible evidence, has been cultivating and making coffee since the 15th Century.

Yemen has a rich history and many of its coffee growing areas are lands owned and passed down through generations. The size of a farmers’ land is referred to in their locally agreed system of measurement, the 'Libna' (اللبنة) or Libnah. This system which has been dealt with, trusted and used for generations.
However, one Libna can mean different things within different areas of Yemen! Precisely because of this, we have to be careful when we refer to different measuring units. Just some of the difficulties and obstacles to understand and manoeuvre around when working in such an ancient land.

For example:
· Within Dhamar, a city around 120 KM from the capital city of Sanaa. 1 Libna is equivalent to 114.49m2.
· Within Sanaa itself, 1 Libna is equivalent to 44.44m2 ! One has to be very careful when referring to units in Yemen and to link this to the area they are located in.

So, what is the Libna or Libnah exactly?
Libna is arguably the most used unit of measurement in Yemen. When translated using a dictionary, the English equivalent would be a “block”. This does not mean much  and the history of how Libna was derived is unknown to us.

Taking 1 Libna as 44.44 m2 would mean that 100 Libna = 4,444m2, sometimes rounded to 4,400m2

There is also the Kasaba (القصبة), another unique unit of measure for Yemen but we will leave that for another time.