Making the land productive again
Tools, seeds and fertilizer arrive for rice season
Meulaboh, Indonesia – As tsunami-battered farming communities prepare their fields for the next rice season, FAO and a constellation of NGOs are racing to provide them with tools to help make up for a dramatic labour shortage.
Tens of thousands of people were killed by the tsunami in and around Meulaboh, on the west coast of Sumatra, the island where Aceh province is located.
"On the west coast the tsunami bore down like a cobra. Nobody had time to escape," recalls Ramadhan Nusfi, a national logistics expert in FAO's sub-office here. "About 80 percent of the people living here died."
The 20 percent who survived give thanks for their good fortune during solemn prayers held recently at the mass graves of their relatives, as farmers were awaiting the right moment to prepare paddy-fields for planting.
Mr Nusfi and allied NGOs, such as France’s Solidarités, worked to provide farmers with hand tractors, threshers, rice seed, hoes and fertilizer to breathe life back into the fields.
Thousands of seedlings also have been distributed. In time they will yield a cornucopia of cacao, mangoes, coconuts and palm oil. Agriculture in Meulaboh is mixed, with farmers producing rice, cash crops and fruit.
In Kuala Tuha, a village 20 kilometres from Meulaboh, farmers have received FAO hand tractors distributed by Solidarités.
"Using the tractor is much quicker than ploughing by hand," say Ruslia and Hasballah, two members of a farming group sharing one of the new tractors. "If FAO hadn’t given this to us, it wouldn’t have been possible for us to buy it," says Hasballah as his neighbour nods agreement.
Each farming group signs a contract with Solidarités, Catholic Relief Services or another of FAO’s partners in Meulaboh. Solidarités retains the right to withdraw the tractor in the unlikely event that farmers obtain more than one machine by applying to different charities.
FAO has rehabilitated or is helping rehabilitate about 7 000 hectares of paddy-fields in Indonesia through distribution of seeds, fertilizer and farm equipment. The Organization also is restoring about 3 600 hectares of dryland secondary crops, vegetables and estate crops.
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