With flood waters still covering vast areas of agricultural land in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, FAO crop and livestock experts are working to assess total damage to the agricultural sector and assist the countries as they plan for recovery.
One thing is already clear: it will not be possible to plant – or replant – maize in the flooded areas. A missed summer maize crop will have negative effects on family incomes, future availability of livestock fodder, and even soil conditions as fields lie idle and wet.
Livestock that survived the flooding due to unusually heavy rains in mid-May continue to be at risk, due to feed stock losses, reduced availability of pastureland, and animal diseases.
“The most vulnerable people risk not having their needs met,” said FAO emergency operations team leader Daniele Donati, who visited both Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia last week for meetings with government and donors and to view the situation together with FAO staff on the ground. “There is a need to protect the investment and savings of small-scale farms, and this is our target,” he added.
In addition to damage to crops and livestock, key storage facilities and infrastructure were flooded or damaged, he said. Meanwhile, landslides are putting agricultural land at risk.
Assistance in the pipeline
Pending the results of a detailed needs assessment, FAO plans to facilitate provision of concentrated livestock feed and veterinary medicines to the worst-hit and most vulnerable farms. Seed provision for a winter wheat crop to be planted in fall, as well as fodder crops, are being recommended.
Post-disaster needs assessment is being carried out by United Nations teams in both Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, with FAO taking the lead on the agricultural needs assessment in Bosnia and Herzegovina. FAO experts in crops, animal production and health, soil analysis and other areas are being mobilized for the effort.
For rapid deployment of technical expertise on the ground, particularly for the needs assessment, FAO is using its own funds. In parallel, the Organization is approaching its traditional donors in the region for more substantial assistance to the affected countries. This week the Government of Austria announced its intention to contribute $250,000 for the provision of seeds for recovery of the agricultural sector in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“If we don’t support the countries in the intervention,” said Donati, “we will see an unravelling of much that has been achieved by the agricultural sector in these countries over the last few years. It could take years for the affected small-scale farmers to recover. We need to support the farmers to accelerate the process of recovery and getting back to farming.”
4 June 2014, Budapest, Hungary