Urgent appeal for cyclone-hit communities in Myanmar

FAO seeks US$33.5 for relief and recovery activities in farming, fisheries, aquaculture and forestry
July 17, 2008

Urgent appeal for cyclone-hit communities in Myanmar

With the clock ticking on Myanmar’s main planting season, agricultural support is urgently needed to restore food production in the country’s cyclone-hit rice bowl, FAO said today.

Currently, 75 percent of farmers in the country’s main food-producing region lack sufficient seed, with little time left before the end of the planting season in August. FAO is appealing for US$33.5 million to help cyclone-affected households restore their livelihoods and resume food production during this crucial period.

Overall needs for relief and recovery activities in farming, fisheries, aquaculture and forestry over the next 12 months total US$51 million under the revised appeal for Cyclone Nargis response for Myanmar launched last week, which called for a total of US$303 million for all sectors including agriculture. As the lead agency for the agriculture sector, FAO is playing a key role in coordinating the efforts of humanitarian partners active in the sector.

Rice and fish hit
Over 783 000 hectares of rice paddy fields – 63 percent of paddy land in affected areas – were submerged and up to 85 percent of seed stocks destroyed when Cyclone Nargis struck in May, according to recent assessments led by FAO and the Government. Present yield rates, coupled with the loss of draught animals and power tillers, indicate a reduction of 550 000 tonnes in the paddy rice harvest, or 32 percent of production in the most-affected areas, the UN agency said.

More than 100 000 fishers have also been affected, with significant losses of boats and fishing gear and more than 21 000 hectares of aquaculture ponds destroyed. Fish and rice constitute the key components of the Myanmar diet.

“With a reduced rice harvest unlikely to meet the needs of the affected population, food security will depend on providing support to farming households in alternative crop strategies and rapidly restoring livestock-, fisheries-, aquaculture- and forestry-based livelihoods,” said Anne M. Bauer, Director, FAO Emergency Operations and Rehabilitation Division.

FAO established an Emergency and Rehabilitation Coordination Unit in Myanmar soon after the cyclone and is currently implementing a livelihood recovery programme covering the crop, fisheries, aquaculture and livestock sectors. Key inputs for the monsoon season, such as high-yielding paddy rice seed, fertilizers, power tillers, draught animals, animal feed and livestock vaccines, have already been delivered by FAO or are currently en route to around 41 000 households in the 11 worst-affected townships of Yangon and Ayeyarwady.

FAO assessments identified emergency and rehabilitation needs for farming, livestock, fisheries and aquaculture, forestry and coordination. Vulnerable groups requiring immediate assistance include over 50 000 small-scale farming households and 99 000 landless rural households.

Boosting food production
Additional resources are urgently required for FAO to expand its assistance to those in need. To do so, FAO has revised its funding requirements from US$10 million, of which nearly three-quarters have been met by donor funding, to US$33.5 million.

With the revised appeal, FAO seeks to boost food production of small-scale farmers through the rapid distribution of paddy rice seed, summer crop seeds, fertilizers, draught animals, water pumps, and equipment to accelerate land preparation and planting. Vaccination campaigns are also time-critical to prevent the spread of livestock diseases and improve the health and productivity of surviving animals.

The livelihoods of landless households – dependent on farm labour, backyard gardening, small livestock production and off-farm activities – are among the hardest hit. FAO’s proposed activities include distribution of vegetable production kits, fruit tree seedlings, cash crop seeds and related tools and pesticides for backyard garden production to increase the availability of nutritious food, particularly among schoolchildren and orphans, and revive income generation. The distribution of small ruminants, pigs, poultry and animal feed will also rapidly provide landless households with eggs, meat and milk for consumption and sale.