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‘Joint efforts in the Philippines are bearing food to the people’, Undersecretary highlights

FAO Director-General and the Philippine’s Agriculture Undersecretary review the successful joint response to the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan
©FAO/Alessandra Benedetti
FAO Director-General with the Philippine’s Agriculture Undersecretary.

19 June 2014, Rome – FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva met today with the Philippine’s Agriculture Undersecretary, Segfredo Serrano, at the Organization’s headquarters in Rome.  

Graziano da Silva thanked the Undersecretary for the successful collaboration carried out between the Government of the Philippines, FAO and other international agencies, which led to a fruitful immediate response to the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013.  He highlighted that the use of FAO’s “3R-approach” -Relief-Recovery-Risk Sensitive Development- effectively enhanced the recovery.

Typhoon Haiyan (locally known as Yolanda) claimed over 6,200 lives, displaced millions and devastated the agriculture and fisheries sectors. Striking between two planting seasons, the typhoon destroyed ready-to-harvest, harvested and newly planted rice crops, and severely affected the livelihoods of the coastal fisher communities.

“FAO is one of the international organizations that came very early with a comprehensive programme,” the Undersecretary said, noting full integration of efforts with the government and civil society organizations. “This model bears the stamp of the FAO Director-General and the new paradigms that are being followed at FAO”. The Undersecretary noted with satisfaction that “these joint efforts are now bearing food to the people”.

FAO responded to an official Government request for support to affected rice farmers, providing 75 percent of the Government-requested rice seeds. Thanks to this coordinated response by FAO, the Government and other partners, farmers who would otherwise have been unable to plant in time for the December/January planting season were able to go back to their fields, and are now harvesting the first rice crop since the typhoon hit the country.

FAO continues its assistance to farmers by supporting their integration to markets, and is working with coconut producers and fishing communities to recuperate their capacities.

Undersecretary Serrano informed the FAO Director-General that farmers in the devastated areas have started harvesting their crops. “This is a good sign of recovery, which can be sustained with our joint assistance to all of them,” he added.  

Graziano da Silva told Undersecretary Serrano that this approach and strategy could be a good model for future international efforts in similar emergency situations.

Both discussed the challenges that the Philippine’s agriculture sector faces after the disaster, which include infrastructure restoration–to allow production and marketing-, road networks and irrigation systems. “A lot of lessons have been learned and we have to start doing many things right,  such as encouraging diversification of production for our farmers,” Serrano said, adding that this was in line with FAO’s advocacy for small farmers. “We also need to ensure that market information and technology continues to flow to our farmers.”

Serrano expressed his satisfaction on the celebration of the International Year of the Family Farming, which the Philippines sponsor. “Agriculture in the Philippines is small farms agriculture, and these need particular assistance and coordination with the government in order to be resilient to the increasing challenges of globalisation and climate change impacts,” he said.

The Undersecretary also expressed support for the high-level, intergovernmental Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2), which FAO is co-organizing with the United Nations World Health Organization in Rome in November 2014.  “The ICN2 is a good convergence of health and agriculture ministers that we fully support,” he said.

Serrano highlighted that the “impacts of good nutrition policies mean better health for the people”. He described how in the Philippines “our philosophy goes far beyond tracking down and counting the harvest production. All has to be translated into the well-being of the population, and this comes primarily from nutrition,” he concluded.

Watch the video interview with Philippine’s Agriculture Undersecretary, Segfredo Serrano.