Dr. Suthiporn Chirapanda, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives
Dr. Somying Piumsombun, Deputy Director-General, Department of Fishery
Representatives from partners, donors and NGOs
Ladies and gentlemen,
It gives me a great pleasure to welcome you all to this important meeting being jointly organized by the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives of the Royal Thai Government and the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific. The purpose of the meeting is to review progress, share information and exchange experiences on post-tsunami rehabilitation activities as well as to discuss improved coordination in efforts supporting long-term recovery and rehabilitation of coastal fishing communities affected by the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
As we all know, the Royal Thai Government and the international community were quick in responding to the tsunami, which was the biggest natural disaster to have stricken this country and region in living memory. The fisheries sector was the worst affected by the tsunami which destroyed or severely damaged the means of livelihoods of tens of thousands of coastal fisherfolk households in the six coastal provinces.
In partnership with the Department of Fisheries, Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, FAO played a crucial role in providing emergency assistance to the affected communities. This included delivery of essential fishing equipment to fisherfolk who lost their boats and other production tools.
FAO distributed 800 fish cages, 180 000 fish fingerlings, 18 000 fish traps (crab, squid and fish traps), 3,320 sets of shrimp gill nets, 408 wood pieces for boat repair and 328 fish cage nets. In addition, to support a rapid re-establishment of sustainable income-generating activities by fisherfolk, 430 boat engines and associated accessories were provided to 28 fisher groups in six provinces, which were then provided on loan to 430 selected fisher folks.
Over the past year, good progress has been made in rebuilding livelihoods of the affected communities. FAO has assisted the Government’s efforts to re-establish sustainable fishery activities, rehabilitate affected/damaged areas and restore fisheries-based livelihoods.
As the emergency phase of assistance is over, we are now moving to the medium and long-term rehabilitation phase, by implementing four new medium-term rehabilitation projects with a total budget of US$1, 300, 000 in the tsunami-affected provinces of Thailand. This is a crucial period when our efforts will help lay the basis for ensuring sustainable food and livelihood security for hundreds of thousands of poor people in this region. In achieving this objective, FAO attaches great importance to its partnership with civil society and the UN country team in Thailand.
FAO’s experience in disaster relief assistance shows that many long-term rehabilitation issues need to be addressed in a sustainable manner. This includes enhancing coordination among parties concerned, and improving relief information related to further assistance needs.
Over the hectic period of providing immediate relief assistance to affected people, concern has been expressed on the limited coordination among various donors, international and national agencies including NGOs. In particular, the concerns have focused on the lack of coordination on the supply of fishery inputs, especially fishing boats to the tsunami-affected communities in Thailand. It has been observed that while some areas were oversupplied with fishing vessels, others did not get adequate support for their needs.
The over supply of fishing vessels has raised the risk of possible over-exploitation of the limited marine fisheries resources, and the concern over the potential over-exploitation of forestry resources for boat building, and its subsequent impact on the environment.
It is thus important to have reliable information on the status of recipients of boats and other relief inputs provided to the fisheries sector by donors, NGOs and other agencies (such as who has received what, when and from whom). This will help enhance coordination and collaboration among all partners in order to ensure that the needs of tsunami-affected communities are met in a sustainable manner. In this connection, the urgent need for donor coordination and monitoring by a technically competent government agency has been recognized.
I would like to take this opportunity to inform you that FAO, in cooperation with the Department of Fisheries, has launched a project in support of this objective: “Strengthening the Coordination and Assessment of Fishing Resource and Inputs Provided by Tsunami Emergency Relief” (OSRO/THA/505/CHA). A DOF-FAO Post-tsunami Rehabilitation Coordination Unit has also been formally established and fully operational now.
Let me conclude by reiterating that FAO is committed to continue to work closely with the Royal Thai Government, other specialized UN agencies and NGOs in rebuilding back better livelihoods of the tsunami-affected communities. I hope your discussion today will help develop a practical action plan to improve coordination and collaboration in long term rehabilitation of the fisheries sector.