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In flood-stricken Pakistan, a good wheat harvest is expected

Agriculture interventions move from relief to early recovery

Photo: ©FAO/Farooq Naeem
Flood-affected farmer carries away wheat seeds donated by US and distributed by FAO.
30 March 2011, Rome/Islamabad – A large-scale distribution by FAO of wheat seeds to the victims of last year’s floods in Pakistan is now ripe to yield enough food for half a million poor rural households. With an average family size of eight, this translates into a harvest large enough to feed four million people for the next six months.
 
FAO spent $54 million of international donor funding buying and distributing quality wheat seeds as part of its emergency intervention that began last August.

Once the harvest is completed, this donation will have produced a crop worth almost $190 million in wheat flour, the main staple, at current local retail prices.  

“The investment made by donors has been quadrupled,” said Daniele Donati, Chief, FAO Emergency Operations Service.

“Moreover, farmers will be able to save the seeds from this year’s harvest to plant again later this year.” More than 18 million people in Pakistan were affected by last summer’s severe flooding, which caused extensive damage to housing, infrastructure and crops.

Farming nearly fully-funded 
 

As part of its immediate response to the floods, FAO led the UN's Agriculture Cluster, comprised of over 200 organizations, reaching 1.4 million farming families across Pakistan. 

FAO received $92 million of its $107 million appeal, which has enabled it to shore up the smallholder agricultural system in the four Pakistan provinces affected by the flooding.

The donors were Australia, Belgium, Canada, the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), the European Commission, IFAD, Italy, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. 

As well as supporting the “Rabi” wheat planting season, it is estimated that FAO saved the lives of almost a million livestock by supplying temporary shelter and enough de-worming tablets and dry animal feed for almost 290,000 families. Green fodder is now becoming available as the harsh Pakistan winter turns to spring.  

“The livestock interventions really paid off,” Donati said. “It costs ten times more to buy a new animal, which often represent a family’s lifetime savings”.   

Canals cleared
 

FAO is overseeing a thousand cash-for-work schemes by which workers are paid to clear irrigation canals blocked with silt and flood debris.  

One severely affected province not to have received much help is Sindh. This was because the fields remained waterlogged until well after the end of the Rabi planting season, and in some cases are still inundated. 

The UN agency will shortly distribute quality rice seeds to almost 25,000 families in Sindh for the upcoming planning season, but over 700,000 families will require assistance over the coming months.  

Recovery priorities

FAO, in partnership with the government of Pakistan has identified recovery priorities for the next two years. These are increasing crop, livestock, fishery and agro-forestry production, improving diets and nutrition and boosting agriculture extension services to offer advice to landless and smallholder farmers.  

“Pursuit of these core objectives will significantly reduce the vulnerability of the populations in question, improve food production and income generation, and increase affected communities’ resilience to future shocks,” said Donati. 

FAO expects its recovery programme to cost $94 million, enough to assist 430,000 families in 24 districts.  An Early Recovery Working Group, co-chaired by the Pakistan Government’s National Disaster Management Authority and the United Nations Development Programme, has been set up with eight sectors covered including one on Agriculture and Food Security, co-chaired by FAO, the World Food Programme, and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture.