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Planting the seeds of recovery in the Philippines after typhoon Haiyan

FAO’s emergency response to Typhoon Haiyan ensured that affected rice farmers could plant in time for the December/January planting season, avoiding a potentially devastating food crisis.

Key facts

More than 6,200 people died and 14.1 million were displaced when Super-Typhoon Haiyan (locally known as Yolanda) struck the Central Philippines on 8 November 2013. The category 5 typhoon was one of the strongest to ever make landfall and the devastation was immense, with both the strong winds and storm surge devastating lives and livelihoods. Damage to the agriculture and fisheries sector was extensive, with the Philippines Department of Agriculture reporting 1.1 million tonnes of crops lost and 600,000 ha of farmland affected. The total cost to agriculture was estimated at USD 724 million. FAO ensured that affected rice farmers could plant in time for the December/January rice planting season, providing 75% of the Government requested rice seed support. Once harvested in March/April 2014, the rice production packages provided to 44,000 affected families will yield enough to feed more than 800,000 people for more than a year. FAO’s emergency response cost around USD 5 million and is expected to yield around USD 84 million in rice, providing real value for money to donors.

The race for rice
Striking between two planting seasons, the typhoon severely damaged ready-to-harvest, harvested and newly planted crops. Time was of the essence and FAO made supporting affected farmers a top priority, responding to a direct request for support from the Government of the Philippines.

Farmers needed to clear and replant their fields in time for the December/January planting season to secure the first harvest of 2014. Missing out on this harvest would have meant no harvest for almost a full year, with devastating consequences on food security and livelihoods.

In the days after the typhoon struck, a UN system-wide Level 3 emergency response was declared, (FAOs first) and FAO immediately deployed a multi-disciplinary team of specialists to support the Government in its recovery efforts.

Filling the gap
FAO filled the gap in Government-reported rice seed requirement, providing 75% of total rice seed needs. In total, FAO distributed certified quality rice seed to around 44,000 farming households. Once harvested in March/April 2014, this is expected to yield enough to feed more than 800,000 people for more than a year.

This emergency response cost around USD 5 million and is expected to yield USD 84 million in rice by March/April 2014, providing real value for money to donors. Each 40kg bag of rice seed distributed per family will yield enough to feed a family of five for a whole year and enable them to gain vital income from surplus.  

FAO complemented rice seed distributions carried out by FAO, the DA and partners by distributing more than 80,000 bags of fertilizer as well as farming tools to ensure farmers benefitted from a complete production package.

Comprehensive Livelihood Recovery
Rice farmers were not the only rural livelihoods severely affected by the typhoon. An estimated 30,000 fishing vessels were damaged or destroyed, with damage spanning the entire fisheries value chain from catch to market. The psychological effects were also very heavy, with particularly high mortality rates among coastal communities.

Coconut farmers suffered devastating damage with 33 million trees lost or damaged in one region alone and more than a million farmers impacted. Coconut farmers are among the country’s most land-poor, poverty-stricken people – some 60 percent live in poverty. Around 50 percent of damaged coconut trees are beyond recovery and are in the process of being replanted, however, these will take between six to eight years to reach full maturity and return to full production. 

FAO is providing alternative livelihoods for affected coconut farmers, supporting livestock rearing activities, assisting the recovery of upland agro-foresters as well as making sure fishing communities fully recover.

FAO is committed to supporting typhoon-affected fishers and farmers in the Philippines in the long-term and is carrying out a large-scale support programme as part of the UN’s Strategic Response Plan. Increasing resilience, ensuring a full recovery and building back better lie at the heart of FAO’s programme of support in the Philippines. In total, FAO aims to support 138,000 of the most affected families.