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Tsunami in perspective

INDONESIA Post-Tsunami Consolidated Assessment

22 April 2005

Tsunami Impact Overview
The way forward

back to topIntroduction

Map of the region
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Of all countries hit by the December 2004 tsunami, Indonesia suffered highest losses and severest damages. More than 126,000 people were killed by the earthquake and the floods. Economic losses from the earthquake and resultant tsunami were severe, particularly on the West Coast. Agriculture and small traders were seriously affected. Infrastructure to support economic activity has been devastated and its repair is critical to any rehabiliation effort. Current estimates indicate that as many as 92,000 farms and small enterprises have been partially or wholly destroyed. Prior to the disaster, these enterprises provided employment for approximately 160,000 people. Overall, it is feared that over 600,000 women and men in Aceh and Nias, about one fourth of the total working population, have lost their livelihoods as a result of the disaster. Three months after the disaster emergency relief operations in the tsunami affected areas of Sumatra are in full swing. The Government of Indonesia (GOI) has recognized the need to swiftly and smoothly move from the relief phase into the rehabilitation and reconstruction phases. FAO mobilized a multi-disciplinary team (FAO staff and consultants, provincial and national Ministry of Agriculture (MoA-GOI) staff and Agricultural Faculty members from the Syiah Kuala University) to conduct a rapid assessment of the affected areas within three weeks after the disaster. More detailed and localized assessments are ongoing. This enables a consolidated assessment of damages and gives the basis on which to proceed with rehabilitation and facilitating sustainable rural development in an integrated manner.

back to topTsunami Impact Overview

East and West Coast differences

The effects of the earthquake and the resultant tsunami were more severe along the West than the East Coast. The West Coast, being closer to the epicenter, received the full impact of the tsunami. The damage was very severe along unprotected sections of the coastline and extended as far as six kilometers inland up river systems. Coastal towns and villages and roads and bridges were ravaged. Loss of livestock and rice growing areas was severe with debris and layers of sediment of variable thickness, kind and origin deposited. Along the East Coast, the damage was more irregular, affecting small coastal areas exposed to the northerly wave action. Roads and power were not dramatically affected and, although there are pockets of severe damage, particularly to fish and shrimp ponds and livestock, the long-term effects are minimal. The West Coast communities, being the hardest hit, have suffered a d evastating blow. Exact damage estimates to agriculture are unavailable as access by road to the majority of the West Coast is still not possible. It is evident from helicopter flyovers that the majority of coastal villages and towns along the West Coast have been destroyed

Land, soil, water and infrastructure damages

Survivors' descriptions of the tsunami on the West Coast differ greatly and depend much on the location (open beaches, bays, headlands, existence of coconut fringes, etc). However, there appeared to have been a number of surges (up to three) of varying speed (up to 20 km per hour) and height (up to 10 meters). These contained varying amounts of sand, silt, fine clay and organic matter. As the water r eceded, and depending on the speed of drainage, varying amounts of debris and sedimentation were left behind. Consequently, the effect on the productive capacity of land is highly variable and is determined by the thickness, composition and layering of the sediment and the degree of salt intrusion. In general, the deposits consist of layers of marine sediments and displaced topsoil. The closer the land is to the sea, the more sandy are the sediment layers. Finer sediments appear to have been deposited towards the upper reaches of the tsunami surge. The effects of the sediment are both physical (depth and kind of sediment, water logging) and chemical (fertility and salinity).

As the water receded, many of the feeder and drainage channels in rice growing areas were destroyed or severely silted and will require major rehabilitation or reconstruction.

Land Damage Classification

Many freshwater sources have been destroyed or are contaminated with salt water - further assessment is required to determine ground water capacities and identify disrupted water tables. A total of nearly 40,000 hectares of agricultural land were affected by the tsunami.

A land damage classification was developed to be able to identify the needs and to diversify rehabilitation strategies.
The 4 classes are:

Classes Area (ha.) Perspectives



A Low damage



Quick return to normal expected without major interventions.

B Medium damage



Return to normal dependent on specific interventions.

C High damage



Slow return to normal in 2005; major rehabilitation works needed; possible reorientation of land uses.

D Permanently Lost



No longer part of the land domain; permanently lost to the sea.

Click here for more information on the:
"Land damage classification and zoning framework"

Termporary and permanent settlements
The number of survivors is unclear as many are in camps or residing in host communities. The situation is evolving rapidly; there are clear indications that, three months after the disaster, most people wish to return to their villages and start again with what remains. A few have started re-building homes and cultivating lands, especially in areas that have been less severely affected (minor sediment deposits), for the rice planting season which was to start February-March. Many of the affected people are in temporary settlements or being hosted by communities inland. Many major and minor roads, bridges and power lines have been destroyed or partially washed away. Relocation of affected communities away from the coastal areas is considered. Settlement of displaced persons, whether in camps, temporary settlements, their original villages or possibly permanent relocation, involves a wide range of agricultural (land potential, support services, market networks, etc) and social (political, human rights, etc) issues. This will require very careful planning and consultation with the communities concerned.

Farmer inspecting damage and debris on his land

Many communities have voluntarily hosted tsunami survivors in tents, temporary settlements or their own houses. Many of these communities have potentially productive land that is currently under-developed. As one community leader commented, internally displaced persons will provide casual labor in the short-term and will increase the community's economic wealth if they reside permanently. Voluntary relocation of internally displaced persons (IDP), with the consent of host communities, is an alternative that requires careful consideration. Social fragmentation and trauma at the family and community level is enormous and will remain a major problem for many years. Many of the survivors are male heads of families and, at the time of the tsunami, were either fishing or working on their land away from their villages and survived by riding the surge in the open sea or by climbing trees. Female heads of families were less fortunate and in many cases were washed away while trying to aid their children and elder family members. The effects of a large number of missing or dead on household and community decision-making processes and labor requirements have yet to be seen. This situation presents a major challenge in the identification and implementation of appropriate interventions at the household and community level.

Farm assets and cash income

With irrigation and assets, farmers are back to business soon

For returnee farmers, the loss of farm assets (cash, building, seed, livestock, tools, etc), cash income (vegetables, coconut, oil palm, peanuts, cocoa, rubber, etc) and support services (rented hand tractors, casual labor, agricultural inputs, local processors, markets, etc) will prevent many farmers from re-entering the agricultural production cycle and marketing their produce. The recapitalization of farm enterprises and restoration of local support services is an immediate priority. The restoration of market linkages and physical access will also require forward planning in terms of rehabilitating infrastructure around community locations.

In many communities, almost all cattle, goats and poultry were lost or killed. Many buffalo appear to have survived, possibly because they were able to swim out of danger. Although there is no evidence of the major animal diseases (water-borne, clostridia, parasites, etc), careful monitoring of livestock health status is required. Roving herds of ownerless, cattle, buffalo, goats and sheep may cause problems in the coming cropping season and will need to be returned to their rightful owners. Restocking of backyard poultry and small ruminants (goats and sheep) will be required. Restocking of buffalo appears to be less of a priority as the majority of rice farmers use hand tractors for rice cultivation.

Land tenure and titling
Official land tenure records and customary records held in the "communal memory" may have been lost - there will undoubtedly be disputes over the use and transfer of land previously owned by now deceased community members. Local community mechanisms for dispute resolution and arbitration should be encouraged.

Traders, agro-processors and market networks
Large sections of the road and almost all bridges on the West Coast have been destroyed. This road was the only access to major trading centers and markets and must be repaired to restore input provision and market access. Local trading shops, rice mills and processing plants have been destroyed and will need to be replaced, in accordance with community re-establishment and household demand. As a consequence, many farming communities outside the tsunami-affected area are now indirectly affected through the direct impact of the tsunami on supporting processing and market infrastructure. Small and large traders on the West Coast have been badly affected by the tsunami, not only in terms of infrastructure and inventory, but also capital lost due to inability to repay debts. These important members of the service industry will be unable to recover without timely and substantive capital injection. Also, the palm oil terminal to the north of Meulaboh and poultry farms south will need to be rehabilitated.

Intermediate Support Organizations (ISO)
Over 90% of the district and sub-district government offices on the West Coast were destroyed and over 40% of staff died. Newly recruited field staff will need to be trained and offices repaired or reconstructed. Local banks (credit access), cooperatives (processing and marketing) and NGOs involved have also been severely affected and will require recapitalizing and training.

back to topThe way forward

Clearing debris from the fields in West Aceh

The initial and later assessment missions of FAO provide a first overview and will continue to provide rehabilitation projects with a clearer picture. Because of the magnitude of the disaster and the efforts needed for local transportation, validation and updating at the local level remains a very important focus of FAO. On basis of the current assessments MoA and FAO are proceeding with a comprehensive framework for rehabilitation. Important elements in the recovey and rehabilitation strategy will be:

Guiding principles
The overarching goal is to restore livelihoods and rehabilitate farming systems and beyond that to facilitate sustainable rural development that overcomes previous weaknesses. Return to pre-tsunami conditions is not even an option in many cases. Building a thriving agricultural sector requires adherence to a strong set of guiding principles:

•  Recovery before growth - Survivors of the disaster are now unemployed and have no means of livelihood. Re-establishing livelihoods is the over-riding objective in the rehabilitation and reconstruction phases. Immediate efforts need to focus on approaches that recapitalize households (through grants) that have lost their key productive assets;
•  Acehnese must be at the center of the development process - All assistance towards rebuilding the lives, confidence, and dignity of the Acehnese people must take into consideration the social, cultural and religious norms in the province. As such, engaging civil society organizations with networks and branches down to the village-level is necessary to ensure that programs for rehabilitation and reconstruction are designed in a participatory and people-centered manner. Enabling communities to engage with and influence policy and decision-makers at the local, district and provincial levels creates sustainable empowerment by which they will be able to exercise their rights in the future. Women are central in Acehnese culture and history. The importance of including women in consensus building process cannot be overstated. Specific interventions are needed to support local women's NGOs and ensure that women have a role in decision-making, implementation and oversight of programs at community level;
•  Household income and asset accumulation - Re-establishing and improving household production and reconstructing and strengthening the private sector through development of processing, markets, business development and financial services and small enterprises, will lead to improved incomes and asset accumulation;
•  Infrastructure - Improvements in public services and infrastructure will have the twin benefits of reducing vulnerability (for example, through improved transport and communications, and social protection schemes) and improving skills (which in turn improve their ability manage productive activities or find employment);

It is important to move smoothly through the three interrelated development phases -relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction- towards the development of a sustainable agricultural sector. Furthermore, mandates and competences of different actors should be respected existing interventions complemented by building partnerships and coordinating activities that are being undertaken by various organisations (government, NGOs and donors). The upcoming framework will focus strongly on capacity building (since government as well as civil society have suffered high losses).

Strategy for recovery
The strategy for recovery aims at assisting people and communities to restart farming and economic activity and to prepare the way for sustainable development and diversification of livelihoods. Priority should be given to helping people rebuild their asset base. In the short-term this should include activities that create local employment, such as rehabilitation of irrigation and drainages ditches, rice field bunds, removal of debris and cultivation of soils covered by sediment (more applicable for land damage classifications A and B). Cash-for-work programs are designed to rebuild capital assets as quickly as possible. In the longer term, assistance should be provided so communities can re-establish their physical assets to increase their security and sense of belonging. This can be achieved by providing assistance to relocate and build up land, housing and basic domestic goods and by restoring rice mills and agro-processing plants that are critical to marketing of agricultural products and by-products. From the beginning this process will have to be geared towards capacity building and diversification to overcome pre-tsunami vulnerability.

Objectives and activities

Field already planted after the tsunami

•  Objective 1: Restoring agricultural production. It is crucial to provide necessary inputs, such as supplies and equipment as well as cash-for-work schemes (particularly for land reclamation) to recapitalize farm enterprises and rural livelihoods. Due to the severe financial situation of the affected households, supplies and equipment should be provided free of charge to individuals and farmers groups. After farmers have recovered their livelihoods, their capacity should be further strengthened so they can better predict and manage risk and mitigate losses. This will include sound management of natural resources and individual assets. Activities under this objective include provision of an agricultural input 'starter kit', community-based action planning and establishing micro-credit schemes, improving integration of community action plans with local government's initiatives;

•  Objective 2: Restoring land and water capacity. Damage to agricultural land (debris, sedimentation, salinization of land and siltation of irrigation feeder and drainage canals) is highly variable and not location-specific. As such, detailed assessments to determine the extent and nature of the damage and methods of land reclamation should be conducted immediately. Reclamation of land on the West Coast is a complicated issue and will involve diverse remedial approaches. Activities will include cleaning of trash and debris by farmers and machinery, removal of sediments through physical removal or mixing, leaching of salt (in saline pockets), relevelling and bunding paddy fields and restoring soil structure and good chemical properties where necessary. Furthermore reconstruction of irrigation and drainage canals as well as access roads will have to be done by communities, if needed with technical assistance and by skilled contractors. In cases where lands have been lost for agriculture (some of Class C and Class D) the remaining lands must be reallocated to some useful use. Integrated Coastal Area Management (ICAM) will help communities identifying possibilities for future landuse;

•  Objective 3: Raising and diversifying the capacity of agricultural stakeholders. Restoring, raising and/or diversifying the capacity of stakeholders engaged into agricultural activities are the key to a successful recovery plan. Land reclamation cannot be achieved without strengthening the capacity of local private experts and provincial/district officers. Likewise, diversification of production cannot be realized without the support of skilled extension officers. Support organisations have suffered huge capacity losses, and while they are in a position to help farmers, they have to come to grips to the new situation themselves. A detailed constraint analysis is required to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the support organisations involved in the development of the agricultural sector and their rehabilitation requirements. Activities under this objective will have local, district and province-wide dimensions. Activities will include rehabilitation of offices, means of communication and transport, training and recruitment of staff and support to the organisations in project prioritization, planning, implementation and coordination. Enterprise and financial support is needed (trainings, action research) to determine community needs and to encourage existing and potential financial services providers to (re)invest in the tsunami-affected areas. NGOs will be supported to organise and mobilise communities, to facilitate community action planning and improve monitoring and evaluation techniques.

Targeting program activities

Detailed program activities in the planning framework would be sequenced, based on an estimation of the critical nature of the damage and the inherent resilience of the system. Immediate efforts focus on recapitalizing households, whereas in the longer term, strategies are based on the premise that enterprise development and livelihoods diversification will be the 'engines of change' and of reconstruction for the affected areas, while community-based planning, and capacity building for diversification and integrated planning are central in all phases. Planning covers all affected areas of northern Sumatra. However, constraints and opportunities for intervention, especially those concerned with enterprise development and livelihoods diversification, will be highly location-specific. These community-led, location-specific interventions should also be supported by funding and larger-scale provincial/national and policy interventions. The upcoming framework would therefore be designed to have different types of interventions for village, provincial and national (policy) level.

 contact: tsunami@fao.org

© FAO, 2005