Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Hiroyuki Konuma

FAO Regional Representative for Asia-Pacific

FAO/UN STATEMENT

by

He Changchui
Assistant Director-General and
Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific

Delivered at the

 ASEAN/UN International Pledging Conference

 Yangon, Myanmar
25 May 2008

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations extends its deep sympathies and condolences to the people and government of Myanmar for the great loss of human lives and people’s livelihood caused by the unprecedented cyclone disaster early this month in Myanmar.

The cyclone swept five states are predominantly rural societies where people are engaged in agriculture and fisheries in a fragile delta eco-system. The delta region produces some 65 percent of the nation’s rice, 50 percent of poultry and 40 percent of pigs; it accounts for 80 percent of aquaculture ponds in the country. The damage caused by the cyclone and its impact on people’s livelihood are far beyond the country’s capacity to cope with.

Food security and the rural/agricultural sector in the delta

Rice fields are destroyed, and food stores lost. Families have lost not only their food stores but also their rice seed for the upcoming planting season, together with their livestock and farming assets. Fishers have lost their boats, fishing gear and fish ponds.

The affected poor families do not have the capital to replace the rice seed and other agricultural inputs, tools and livestock, nor the means to replace fishing assets lost during the storm.

Time is running out. If rice seed is not received and planted within the next 30 to 40 days, little or no harvests will be reaped later this year. The crisis will be carried into 2009 and the country may turn from a rice exporter into a rice importing country. This could lead to further pressure on world rice prices.

Early assessment of emergency and recovery in agriculture

FAO estimated initial requirements at US$10 million for agriculture cluster to address the critical needs in agriculture, livestock and fisheries sectors in the UN Flash Appeal launched on 9 May 2008.

This funding will allow the regions to meet a small part of the immediate requirements as the costs for rehabilitation for agriculture, livestock and fishery sector. The immediate priority is to provide rice seeds and fertilizers for meeting the monsoon planting season from now to July. Water pumps, draft animals and land tillers are needed for repairing paddy fields, irrigation facilities and water reservoirs.

FAO in action

After a preliminary mission by two senior officers to some of the cyclone damaged areas from 9 to 17 May FAO has fielded a multi-disciplinary needs assessment team composed of around 10 international and national technical experts in the fields of crops, fishery, livestock and forestry.

A unit for emergency and rehabilitation coordination is envisaged at the FAO office in Yangon.

ASEAN/UN international pledging conference

FAO stands ready to work with ASEAN along with UN system organizations under the coordination of UN Resident Coordinator and other partners for timely, efficient and effective delivery of urgently required inputs and other rehabilitation assistance.

Early damage and needs assessments are funded from FAO own resources (US$638 000), and $500 000 has been mobilized from Italy.

Another US$16.5 million is under active consideration by donors, e.g. the European Commission, DFID, CERF, Spain and Italy.

FAO, as a knowledge organization with vast experience gained through emergency relief operation worldwide, including the tsunami disaster relief and rehabilitations in the region and Myanmar, is strongly committed to placing its wealth of expertise and presence on the ground at the disposal of countries – recipient and donors.

I call on each and all of the donors present here to live up to the challenge for early and full recovery of the livelihoods of 2.4 million inhabitants of the Irrawaddy delta of Myanmar.