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FAO delivers seed in time for planting season
‘When the typhoon hit, our rice was almost ready and we were expecting a good harvest’ Susan Saspay says looking out over the rice field she farms on. Striking between two farming seasons, the typhoon severely damaged ready-to-harvest, harvested and newly planted rice, in addition to seed stocks and tools.
‘We lost everything!’ she continues, ‘our ready-to-harvest rice, our stored seeds, and our rented tractor. Not to mention our house,’ she says gesturing behind her at what remains of her house. Susan is one of the almost 44 000 affected households FAO is supporting with quality, certified rice seed following the devastation that Typhoon Haiyan left in its wake on 8 November 2013.
Ensuring farmers are able to plant in time for the December/January planting season has been FAO’s primary concern in the month following the typhoon, to ensure that farmers can get back on track in terms of restoring their livelihoods. If they missed this planting season they would not harvest until the next harvest season in October 2014, and would have to rely on food aid for almost a year.
The Department of Agriculture requested support for the 63 234 ha of devastated rice crops in region VIII alone – the most affected region. Thanks to a coordinated response, the dedication of its field staff, and generous support from the Governments of Swizerland, Italy, Ireland, Norway, Belgium as well as UN-CERF funds, FAO has bridged the gap for rice seed in this region.
Delivering more than 54% of the required rice seed for affected farmers. FAO, in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture, is the first organization to be delivering rice seeds. By March/April 2014, the 1 800 tonnes of rice seed FAO is currently distributing in regions VI and VIII should yield enough to feed around 800 000 people for a whole year, at an estimated market value of USD 84 million.
Susan lives with her husband Erwin in Barangay Paitan near Burauen, some 30 minutes south of Tacloban. They have seven children aged from 4 to 18 who are all in school. Before the typhoon they were small-scale tenant farmers working on 1 ha of rented land.
‘I thank FAO for supporting us in this time of need’ she says smiling,‘ with this help we can plant before it is too late, enjoy a good harvest, and I hope to pay back our debts’. Farmers in affected regions often rent the land they farm on and borrow to pay for inputs, making their situation even more desperate. ‘Without these seeds I don’t know what I would do’ she says. ‘We can only just afford the school fees for our children, so that would have been the first thing to cut. We would have had to borrow even more.’
As we say goodbye and leave Susan’s village, we see many farmers across the rice fields planting rice. The planting season is now, and with rice accounting for 20% of national agricultural output in the Philippines, farmers desperately needed the seeds to replant their destroyed rice crops.
Having secured this season’s rice harvest, FAO is focusing on other pressing issues. As part of the joint UN Strategic Response Plan in response to Typhoon Haiyan, FAO is calling for USD 38 million to support more than 128 000 severely affected households in the Philippines, through interventions targeting rice and corn farming, fisheries, coconut farming, livestock, and agroforestry.
On 8 November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan (locally known as Yolanda) devastated the central Philippines killing more than 6 000 people, affecting another 14 million, and causing damage to an estimated 600 000 ha of farmland.