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Myanmar Revised Tropical Cyclone Nargis Flash Appeal 2008
Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar on 2 and 3 May, affecting some 2.4 million people and causing more devastation than any other natural disaster in the country’s history. Tidal waves and 200 km/hour winds caused widespread human suffering and damage to all sectors throughout Yangon and the Ayeyarwady delta, Myanmar’s rice bowl. Up to 800 000 people were displaced and over 130 000 recorded as dead or missing.
The cyclone struck major crop and fisheries production areas, devastating livelihoods and heightening the risk of food insecurity. Currently, 75 percent of farmers lack sufficient seed. Agricultural and livelihood support is increasingly time-sensitive as the main planting season nears its end in August. The Myanmar Tropical Cyclone Nargis Flash Appeal was launched on 9 May 2008 to seek funding to support cyclone victims. With increased access by all humanitarian partners to assess cyclone-affected areas, the Appeal was revised on 10 July to reflect a more comprehensive account of needs and required funding. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is the lead agency for the Agriculture Cluster in Myanmar.
Challenges facing food security and agriculture
Some 70 percent of Myanmar’s population depend on agriculture-related activities for their livelihood and, for many, as a means to provide food to their families. Cyclone Nargis destroyed the productive assets of farmers, fishers and forest-dependent communities, leaving them with little or nothing with which to reconstruct their way of life. Groups requiring immediate agricultural livelihood assistance include over 50 000 small-scale farming households and 91 000 landless rural households that depend on farm labour, backyard gardening, small livestock production and fisheries activities and aquaculture.
FAO and Government-led needs assessments reveal that over 783 000 hectares of rice paddy fields – more than 60 percent of paddy land in the affected area – were submerged and up to 85 percent of seed stocks destroyed. The loss of power tillers and much-needed draught animals has stunted farmers’ efforts to rapidly prepare their damaged fields in time. Present yield rates point to a reduction in the harvest of paddy rice, Myanmar’s staple crop, by 550 000 tonnes.
Damage to fisheries and aquaculture has affected the livelihoods of over 100 000 fishers, whose products constitute the most important component of the Myanmar diet second only to rice and thus a main source of essential nutrients. With the loss of harvested crops and reduced rice yields, food security will be contingent on providing support to farming households in alternative crop strategies and rapidly restoring livestock-, fisheries- and forestry-based livelihoods.
Within the framework of the Revised Myanmar Tropical Cyclone Nargis Flash Appeal, FAO seeks USD 33.5 million through eight project proposals to support Government efforts and the people of Myanmar to rapidly restore livelihoods, food and fisheries production and self-reliance during this critical time. FAO has coordinated the overall requirements for the agriculture sector, which total USD 51 million under the Revised Appeal.
FAO’s proposed activities include:
- providing paddy rice seed, summer crop seeds, fertilizer, draught animals, animal feed and equipment to farmers;
- distributing vegetable production kits, fruit tree seedlings, cash crop seeds and related tools for backyard garden production to landless farmers, with special focus on female-headed households, schoolchildren and orphans;
- providing fishing communities with essential fishing gear, boat repair and related tools, aquaculture supplies, and fish preservation and processing equipment;
- supporting forest-dependent livelihoods through seedling distribution and mangrove reforestation activities; and
- providing technical assistance and coordination support to maximize efforts and avoid operational gaps and duplication.