13 January 2004, Rome -- The recent earthquake in the city of Bam in Iran has seriously affected the agricultural sector in the region, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said in a statement today.

Due to widespread damage to buildings and infrastructure, commercial activities in the city of Bam and the surroundings have almost completely stopped.

Date plantation owners, mostly small-scale farmers, are among the worst hit, FAO said. Families dependent on livestock production are also badly affected.

FAO launched today an appeal for $2.5 million to assist farming families affected by the earthquake. Repairing irrigation systems to restore water supply for most affected date plantations, providing agricultural inputs and support for livestock farmers will be the main focus of FAO's emergency assistance.

An FAO mission is currently visiting Bam to assess the damage to the agriculture sector and provide detailed information on the assistance needed.

In the area hit by the earthquake, agriculture is mainly based on fruit production: dates (15 000 ha), pistachios, citrus (7 000 ha), vegetables and cereals.

Livestock also plays an important role, with a total herd of 45 000 large and 220 000 small animals. Milk production is a major activity with mostly small-holders cultivating fodder crops. Agriculture provides employment for over 25 percent of the district's population of 230 000 people.

Irrigation systems damaged

According to first assessments, the earthquake has seriously damaged the traditional irrigation infrastructure, the quanat water channels, as well as several wells. Greenhouses, motor-pumps, agricultural machinery and 38 rural small-and medium-scale date conservation and refrigeration units have been seriously damaged.

As storage facilities have also been affected, there is a serious concern about the availability of seed and animal feed for the coming planting season.

There is also concern about 650 livestock shelters that have been destroyed and the loss of 450 large and around 20 000 small animals.

FAO is appealing for $2.5 million to reconstruct the ten worst affected and most critical quanats, to repair the 20 worst damaged deep wells, to procure water pumps and for other rehabilitation activities in the date palm plantations.

Additional funds will be needed to support the economic recovery of the population in the disaster-affected areas. In particular, FAO is planning to rehabilitate damaged agricultural infrastructure, repair livestock shelters and provide animal feed as well as seeds and fertilizers.

"FAO's emergency interventions will assist the most-affected farmers to return to their fields and restart production. This assistance will contribute to ensure food security of the most vulnerable families hit by the disaster," said Anne M. Bauer, Director, Emergency Operations and Rehabilitation Division.

Nuria Felipe Soria
FAO Information Officer
(+39) 06 570 55899