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Lao People’s Democratic Republic: Joint Appeal for Flood Recovery and Rehabilitation

Lao People’s Democratic Republic: Joint Appeal for Flood Recovery and Rehabilitation

19/09/2008

Between 12 and 18 August, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) was struck by the most severe flood to affect the country in about one hundred years. Tropical storm Kammuri brought heavy rainfall and rising waters to the Mekong Basin, impacting over 200 000 people. The situation was compounded by the saturation of catchment areas during the monsoon season.

Flooding was most severe in northern and central provinces, where up to 250 mm of rain fell within a few days and flash floods claimed nearly a dozen lives. Damage was incurred to homes, infrastructure, schools, wells and sanitation systems, among other vital resources and services. There is a rising danger of water- and vector-borne diseases due to residual flood waters, unsanitary conditions and overcrowding. The loss of food stocks, seeds, standing crops and livestock, coupled with disruption to livelihoods and increased food costs, have further exacerbated precarious levels of food insecurity and malnutrition, particularly among children.

The Joint Appeal for Flood Recovery and Rehabilitation in Lao PDR was launched on 19 September to support Government efforts in responding to the most critical humanitarian and early recovery needs of the affected population within a 12-month timeframe. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is the lead agency for agriculture, encompassing the crops, livestock, aquaculture and agro-forestry subsectors, identified in the Appeal as fundamental areas of intervention to rebuild livelihoods, ensure food security and avoid destitution.

Challenges facing food security and agriculture

Nearly 80 percent of the Lao labour force depends on agriculture for its livelihood. In addition to the income generated for family healthcare, schooling and other essential needs, many depend on agricultural production to meet household food requirements. Preliminary estimates reveal that the floods inundated 75 000 hectares of agricultural land, of which two-thirds suffered damage.

Numerous livestock deaths and the complete destocking of fish ponds mean the loss of income as well as access to an immediate source of nutritious food. Crop growth had already suffered from reduced precipitation in June/July, which coupled with the floods points towards significantly decreased yields and crop losses. Farmers currently lack the productive assets needed in order to resume livelihood activities in time for the upcoming agricultural (dry) season, beginning in October/November. Irrigation channels also suffered damage, which may impede dry crop cultivation.

Soaring food and input prices are furthering the plight of rural households to reconstruct their livelihoods while staving off hunger. Surviving livestock are weakened and more prone to disease, during a time when the risk of outbreaks is heightened due to increased humidity and impure water sources. Restoring food production, livelihoods and self-reliance will be contingent on safeguarding the remaining assets of resource-poor families, replacing lost inputs and providing technical guidance conducive to lasting recovery across all subsectors of agriculture. Inaction would lead to the adoption of harmful coping strategies and dependency on food aid.

FAO’s response

Within the framework of the Joint Appeal for Flood Recovery and Rehabilitation in Lao PDR, FAO seeks USD 2 million through two project proposals to assist Lao rural households to rapidly restore crop, livestock and aquaculture production, livelihoods and self-reliance during this critical time. FAO’s activities aim to:

  • equip farmers with the rice and vegetable seeds and fertilizers needed in order to plant their fields in time for the upcoming dry season;
  • reduce livestock morbidity and mortality through carrying out vaccination campaigns, deworming and the provision of vitamins;
  • revive aquaculture production through the distribution of fingerlings, lime and frogs and rehabilitation of ponds; and
  • provide training in all of the above areas of intervention to ensure best practices, enhance production and maximize the use of project inputs.