FAO's post-tsunami role
FAO assessment teams rushed to Asia after the tsunami ravaged the region, evaluating damage and rehabilitation needs in fisheries and agriculture to be able to assist governments overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster.
In the initial phase of emergency relief, FAO concentrated on restoring farmers' and fishers' access to seeds, tools and fishing nets to reduce the length of time people would be dependent on food aid. FAO also began cash-for-work programmes as part of efforts to kick-start local economies, and provided technical advice to governments and directly to disaster-affected rural households.
The main challenge now facing governments is rebuilding the livelihoods and economic base of coastal communities that were completely or partially destroyed.
In many tsunami-stricken areas, FAO helps by coordinating the work of NGOs so that the various organizations do not unwittingly target the same survivors for help while leaving others out.
In the Indonesian province of Aceh and the worst-hit parts of Sri Lanka, FAO is carrying out work that ordinarily would have been performed by local civil servants, killed by the tsunami. To fill that role in Indonesia, an emergency coordination office was established at Banda Aceh, the provincial capital near the epicentre of the tsunami damage.
"FAO provides leadership for the entire boat-rebuilding initiative," says Eric Lyman, co-founder of the Austin International Relief Operations, an American NGO that helps fishers rebuild boats in Aceh province (see related story, “Helping Aceh's ‘lucky ones’ build a future”). "FAO officials keep track of the type of boats that should be introduced to avoid overfishing. They are keeping standards high."
Seksan Matcha, District Fisheries Officer in the southern Thai area of Kura Buree, where FAO has distributed fish traps and aquaculture equipment to help fishers recover from the tsunami, echoes those sentiments.
"Step by step, FAO projects are improving the livelihoods of the fishing households here," he says.
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