Bangladesh: agricultural sector devastated in cyclone-hit areas
The agriculture, livestock and fisheries sectors in southern Bangladesh have suffered enormous losses and large-scale assistance is urgently needed to address the damage caused by Cyclone Sidr, FAO said today. The cyclone has affected over 6.7 million people in 30 southern districts, and latest government reports put the death toll at around 3 000 people.
According to data from the Disaster Management Bureau (DMB) of the Ministry of Food and Disaster Management, which includes government, UN, donor and NGO representatives, over 92 000 hectares of crops were completely destroyed, and over 551 000 hectares sustained partial damage.
Livestock losses were also severe, with more than 350 000 ruminants (cattle, buffalo, sheep and goats) and poultry estimated to have been lost.
Serious damage has also been observed in the fisheries and shrimp aquaculture sectors. In Morelganj and Sharankhola upazilas, important shrimp producing areas, some 5 000 shrimp enclosures were destroyed. In Bagerhat district some 90 percent of the shrimp enclosures along the Baleshwar River were reportedly destroyed and flushed by tidal waves.
“Support is urgently needed to help restore agricultural and fisheries production activities as well as livestock assets for animal traction in the affected communities,” said Anne M. Bauer, Director, FAO Emergency Operations and Rehabilitation Division. “Quick intervention to improve food availability and self-reliance in cyclone-devastated districts will reduce the need for protracted, and more costly, life-saving assistance.”
“At present the damage is being assessed by the Government and various partners, and the rehabilitation tasks are enormous,” said Ad Spijkers, FAO Representative in Bangladesh. “There is a need for agricultural inputs and vegetable seeds, fishing material and aquaculture equipment, as well as feed and vaccination for the livestock. Special attention is also needed for mangrove rehabilitation and for aforestation activities.”
FAO has received US$1 million from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) for immediate assistance to cyclone-affected farmers and fisherfolk and is actively seeking funding from other donors to help rebuild the livelihoods and restore the dignity of more than 100 000 of the worst-affected households, activities that will directly benefit nearly 500 000 people.
In addition, the Government of Belgium has approved US$2 million towards FAO activities to assist around 47 000 households (235 000 people), through the provision of seeds and other agricultural inputs, as well as fishing nets and supplies.
FAO has established an emergency coordination and rehabilitation unit within the FAO Representation in Bangladesh to support its relief and rehabilitation operations in the cyclone-affected regions.
In his speech to FAO’s governing Conference this week, Ambassador Fazlul Karim of Bangladesh thanked FAO and its member countries for their support. He said that in spite of the Government’s efforts climate vulnerability was not allowing Bangladesh to achieve food security on a sustainable basis, citing as examples the devastating impact of severe floods in July and August and last week’s cyclone during peak cultivation periods for rice, Bangladesh’s main staple food.
“Recent natural disasters should serve as wake-up calls for us all. We need to be proactive in evolving technological and other forms of interventions to help the vulnerable states face the challenges of climate change,” Ambassador Karim said. “We have to work hard, in unison and in a focused manner, so that posterity cannot question our collective wisdom or lack of timely action.”