Press Release 00/35
ONE YEAR AFTER THE WAR: FAO OPTIMISTIC ABOUT RELAUNCH OF AGRICULTURE IN KOSOVO
Rome, 12 June -- The rehabilitation of agriculture in Kosovo one year after the end of war has made significant progress, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in a statement today. For FAO, Kosovo has become one of its biggest emergency operations ever.
"There are good reasons to be optimistic for the agricultural sector in Kosovo: 80,000 hectares have been planted with wheat, which is only 10-12 percent less than a normal year," said Daniele Donati, FAO's Emergency Co-ordinator in Pristina. "We estimate a harvest of about 240,000 tonnes. The total need for Kosovo is 350-360,000 tonnes, but traditionally Kosovo always had a deficit in grain. If we take into account that 60,000 tonnes of food aid will be distributed, then only 60,000 tonnes will need to be commercially imported."
Since FAO started its activities in Kosovo in July 1999, three short-term projects have been completed and 15 are ongoing, including the distribution of seeds and fertilizers, multiplication of seeds, livestock vaccination, repair of tractors and combine-harvesters as well as reforestation. FAO's total emergency aid has amounted so far to around US$13.5 million, financed by the Netherlands, the United States, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Luxembourg, Italy, the United Kingdom and France.
The refugees returning to Kosovo had lost everything - their houses destroyed, their belongings stolen or burnt, their fields made dangerous by mines and their animals lost. FAO's objective therefore was to re-start agriculture in order to ensure minimum levels of income and food.
In October 1999 FAO co-ordinated the distribution of winter wheat and maize seeds and fertilizers to around 70,000 families, including the Serb minority. Several Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) were involved in the seed distribution campaign with their own resources. Most families managed to plant seeds thanks to a massive mine clearing campaign.
The problems of ensuring internal seed supply and seed quality control are being tackled by a Seed Multiplication Scheme for potatoes and wheat and the establishment of a seed quality control laboratory in Pristina.
Working with two major NGOs, FAO started emergency support to repair damaged tractors and combine-harvesters. About 1,500 tractors and 740 combine-harvesters in more than 200 villages will be repaired. Sweden financed the project. It also aims to stimulate the local economy by helping to set up village garages and spare parts shops.
FAO estimated that cattle numbers across Kosovo were halved because of the conflict. A vaccination campaign launched in early 2000 is now being completed and will protect the remaining livestock against major epidemics. The target was to vaccinate more than 200,000 cattle, about 155,000 sheep and goats and 27,000 pigs. The campaign, carried out by local veterinarians, concentrates on vaccination against diseases that can be transmitted to humans. The project was funded by the US government with about US$1 million.
Over the last 10 years illegal logging destroyed vast areas of natural forests in Kosovo. During the conflict, the forests were further damaged and mines were laid. After the war, forests continued to be depleted, as for many people trees provided their only source of firewood and reconstruction material. An FAO project funded by Norway aims at assessing the damage, identifying areas suitable for reforestation and strengthening local capacity to manage forestry resources.
Together with WFP, FAO established a Food Security Surveillance Unit, funded by the US government to monitor the situation of the rural and urban population and to identify the needs for further assistance.
Based on the positive results achieved so far, FAO is planning to scale down its emergency assistance and the number of beneficiary rural families should decrease from 70,000 to 40,000 by the end of the year. The agency has appealed for US$17 million to assist these families until the end of 2000.
Simultaneously, FAO is preparing the transition from emergency assistance to rehabilitation by providing policy advice, information gathering and distribution and capacity building. A US$25 million project, formulated by the World Bank and FAO, aims at relaunching the rural economy over a two-year period by investing in cattle, farm mechanisation, veterinary services and capacity building. So far US$11.8 million have been secured for this programme.
For further information please contact Erwin Northoff, Media Officer, tel: 0039-06-5705 3105, e-mail: Erwin.Northoff@fao.org.
A selection of recent video material from Kosovo can be obtained from Gillian Hazell, Video Producer, tel: 0039-06-5705 5980, e-mail: Gillian.Hazell@FAO.Org
For more information on FAO's emergency activities please visit http://www.fao/reliefoperations
In the following interview Mr. Daniele Donati, FAO's Emergency Coordinator in Pristina, comments on the progress achieved in the rehabilitation of agriculture (36sec.), on FAO's emergency activities (30sec.) and the future perspectives (40sec.).
You can listen to or download the interview (1min46sec).
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