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FAO in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea

FAO success stories in DPR Korea

Neatly patterned paddies line the slopping hills as you drive through the countryside in DPR Korea. Women and men are hard at work in the paddies watering and transplanting rice and maize seedlings.

It is a rather beautiful sunny May day during this planting season. Farming in DPR Korea is carried out by cooperative farms of around1000 - 2000. The Jangsuwon cooperative farm produces around 1500 tonnes of rice and 500 tonnes of maize which is threshed, cleaned, dried and stored for distribution to Korean families by the Ministry of Food Administration.

The agriculture sector, including forestry and fisheries, contributes 20 percent to DPR Korea's GDP and employs 36% of its workforce. Agriculture is important in ensuring food and livelihood security and socio-economic well-being of the people.

However, the inconsistent performance of the sector continues to threaten food and nutrition security. The sector is affected by harsh weather patterns, poor soil quality and lack of agricultural production inputs such as improved seeds, plastic sheeting, fertilizers, machinery and equipment and their related spare parts.

Mr. Kim Chol Kwang is a leading rice farmer in Namsan Dong, Sadong district in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. He is also the Vice Chairman of the Crop Research Institute at the Academy of Agricultural Science in Pyongyang, DPR Korea. At the crack of dawn, Kim heads out into the fields where he stays until late in the evening. He is joined by other farmers who work tirelessly to ensure an increase in crop yields at harvest time in October and November.

Conservation agriculture (CA) and double cropping (DC) can help to alleviate the recurring severe drought situation that is affecting food security in DPR Korea because CA technologies require less water for crop production.

Wheat, barley, rice, maize, soybean and potatoes planted under conservation agriculture cope better during the drought season because the crop covers planted using CA technology help in maintaining the soil moisture content. The legume crops provide a living cover but also have the ability to fix nitrogen from the air into the soil to improve soil fertility.

Farmers on the Yaksu Cooperative farm in Kang So County, Nampo City are lucky. The Taedong River runs right through the 730 hectare farm, ensuring a continuous supply of water for irrigation. But Mr. Nhi Ki Nam, the chairman of the cooperative arm explains that the farmers have their own troubles. Natural disasters are one: the recurring drought threatens to cut expected food production to half on this farm and across the country this year.

Mr. Nam says last year (2014) the drought affected the farm's capacity and production. This experience has pushed the farm to prepare in anticipation of the drought by building up its irrigation system.