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Sri Lanka Common Humanitarian Action Plan 2008
Human suffering in Sri Lanka is deeply embedded in nearly two decades of conflict (1983-2002) compounded by the devastation caused by severe natural disasters. While the 2002 ceasefire agreement between the Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam raised hopes for lasting settlement, escalating violence in 2006 resulted in the official abrogration of the peace accord and renewal of civil conflict at the onset of 2008.
During the last 25 years, the conflict has taken more than 70 000 lives, generated over 520 000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) and left large-scale devastation in its path. With the core of violence shifting from east to north, it is foreseen that 2008 will mark a time of return for thousands of conflict-affected families in eastern districts, while uprooting households by the masses along the northern front.
Prompt assistance is critical at this time to address the changing needs of Sri Lanka’s most vulnerable communities en route to and away from home. The United Nations (UN) and Partners 2008 Common Humanitarian Action Plan (CHAP) has outlined strategic priorities for Sri Lanka that, alongside Government efforts, aim to protect and reduce suffering among conflict-affected groups most in need.
Challenges facing food security and livelihoods
Over one-third of Sri Lanka’s population partially derives their livelihoods from agricultural activities and, for many, it provides the basis of household food security. Conflict and repeated displacement have devastated the food production levels and purchasing power of IDPs, returnees, host families and other vulnerable groups.
The lack of agricultural, pastoral and fishery inputs has impeded rural households from producing sufficient food to feed their families, let alone generate enough income to contend with increasing food costs and meet other basic needs. FAO and Government assessments reveal that 176 658 hectares of farmland have not been cultivated owing to violence or land access restrictions, disrupting the traditional livelihoods of over 215 000 households.
These trends have forced many to resort to harmful coping strategies, such as selling property and household assets, further marginalizing vulnerable groups and distancing them from recovery. In conflict-affected areas, levels of acute malnutrition have nearly doubled the national average. With agriculture as a means to sustainably improve household nutrition and food security, rehabilitation of the sector will be paramount to recovery thoughout the country.
FAO in Sri Lanka
As the lead agency in the agriculture and food security sectors, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has been assisting rural communities in Sri Lanka since 1978. FAO interventions empower crisis-stricken households with the means to resume livelihood activities and provide for their families, while preparing them to better cope with future shocks.
Through the provision of training and essential inputs, such as quality seeds, agricultural tools, healthy livestock, veterinary supplies and safe fisheries equipment, FAO has helped many thousands of families in Sri Lanka to increase their self-reliance and improve their nutritional intake, while boosting local rural economies.
Within the framework of the 2008 CHAP, FAO’s main objectives in Sri Lanka are to:
- improve sustainable food and nutrition security through increased local food production;
- enhance crop yields through the provision of high-yielding seed varieties, fertilizers, agricultural tools;
- increase livestock production by providing healthy animals and veterinary services;
- build capacity among farmers, pastoralists and fishers in improved livelihood practices; and
- strengthen coordination in the sector among partner agencies to better identify/respond to needs, improve information exchange and avoid duplication.
As part of the 2008 CHAP for Sri Lanka, FAO is appealing for US$4 513 399.