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Restoring farmers’ livelihoods after severe floods in Serbia

FAO provides agricultural assistance packages to disaster-struck farmers in Serbia. 

Key facts

Shortly after severe floods hit Serbia in May 2014, the Government of the Republic of Serbia declared a state of emergency: some 32 000 people were evacuated from their homes; schools, health facilities, and agricultural lands were damaged. Agriculture is the backbone of the rural economy in Serbia, as well as an important source of income for the majority of the rural population. Damage and losses to the agriculture sector were estimated at 228 million euros. In response to the devastating floods, FAO partnered with the European Union, the Government of the Republic of Serbia, and other implementing partners to launch the European Union Assistance for Flood Relief Programme. Worth 92 million euros, the programme - funded by the European Union - aims to provide extensive assistance for flood relief in Serbia. To date, with 9.5 million euros assigned to recovery of agriculture production, FAO has supported a total of around 34 500 flood-affected farming families from 993 communities in 41 municipalities in Serbia with assistance packages. As a result, the families were able to restart their agricultural activities and rebuild their livelihoods.

The FAO assistance packages to flood-affected farming families comprised a provision of crop seeds, fruit tree saplings, canes, fertilizer, livestock and animal feed, farming equipment and beehives, as well as the construction of greenhouses and organization of disaster risk reduction and climate change in agriculture workshops.

“The EU donation meant a lot to all farmers in the area, regardless of what kind of support and assistance package they received,” beneficiary Jovan Petrovic states.

In autumn and winter 2014 and 2015, FAO sourced and delivered fruit saplings and canes to around 2 000 farms in 30 Serbian municipalities. Over 2 million plum, cherry, sour cherry, raspberry and blackberry saplings and canes were planted in selected farmers’ orchards throughout the country, for a total value of 1.2 million euros.

The Petrovic family - one of the many beneficiaries
FAO provided fruit producers in Sabac municipality with a total of over 450 000 certified, high-quality raspberry cane varieties, including Tulameen, Meeker and Polka.

The Petrovic family is one of 254 beneficiaries in the municipality who applied for a raspberry cane assistance package after 11 hectares of their land was flooded in Prnjavor, a town near Sabac municipality. The family – Jovan, his wife Gordana and their two sons Milan and Ivan - have grown raspberries for years.

As a result of the flood damages, their raspberry canes had either dried out or were completely destroyed. The family raises cattle and pigs, and cultivates maize, soybean, wheat and clover. However, their one-half hectare raspberry field has become an important source of income. After applying for support, FAO delivered 1 800 high-quality, certified Tulameen raspberry canes to the family in autumn 2014.

Known for their large yields and sweet taste, the Petrovics’ Tulameen canes produced six tonnes of raspberries grown on 50 acres of land. Family father Jovan Petrovic says he is very satisfied: “The quality of the raspberry canes we received was very good, as was our yield. Since this was the first harvest, I expect even better yields and higher quality results for the following seasons. I am thankful to all who helped restore our raspberry production after the floods.”

Training for the future
In order to learn from the past and prepare for the future and to help the development of the National disaster risk management programme, FAO organized training workshops on disaster risk reduction and management. Some 30 participants, including professionals from Serbia’s Ministry of Agricultural and Environmental Protection, the acting assistant director for the Office of Reconstruction and Flood Relief and FAO experts, worked to define priority activities for disaster risk reduction and management activities in the agricultural sector. 

“This workshop marks a need to shift to resilience-building measures related to agriculture,” said Olga Buto, a climate change officer with FAO’s Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia. “Now that the initial shock of the flood has passed, everyone is looking towards the future and is really committed to prevention, mitigation and preparedness. We know that every dollar spent on prevention and preparedness saves three to five dollars on emergency response.”

In autumn 2016 a new series of trainings in Climate Change Adaption was launched in Eastern Serbia. In 42 trainings, farmers from seven municipalities will be trained on how to better adapt their cereal and fodder crops, fruit, livestock and vegetable production, to better utilize their agriculture machinery and improve their farm management practices, and to be more prepared and resilient to negative influences of climate change on agriculture.

About the European Union Assistance for Flood Relief Programme
In response to the devastating floods in May 2014, the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) in partnership with the FAO, the organizations HELP and ABS, the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), the World Bank and the Government of Serbia, implemented the European Union Assistance for Flood Relief Programme.

The European Union is currently providing the largest assistance for flood relief in Serbia with 92 million euros from the Instrument for Pre-accession (IPA) 2012 and IPA 2014. Funds are used for the construction of new houses, the rehabilitation of public buildings and infrastructure, private houses and roads, as well as for economic and agricultural recovery of municipalities that were most affected by floods.

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