FAO ramps up relief efforts in Sudan
Seeds, supplies and animal health services to go to 40 000 of Darfur's hardest-hit households
2 December 2004, Rome -- FAO is providing vegetable seeds and gardening tools to 35 000 of the poorest and most vulnerable households in conflict-affected areas of Sudan's Darfur region for use during the upcoming 2004 winter cropping season.
FAO will also help improve the health of donkeys belonging to approximately 5 000 households currently living in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps.
The UN agency today announced that it has directed US$390 000 towards provision of 9 tonnes of vegetable seeds, more than 35 000 gardening tools, veterinary supplies and technical assistance by agricultural extension experts in the conflict-stricken region.
Focus on vegetable production and livestock
The cereal season has already been completed in Darfur and can no longer benefit from agricultural aid. FAO is therefore focusing on vegetable production and preservation of livestock.
"We target poor farmers who cannot afford to buy seeds or have lost their seed stores due to the conflict. FAO-donated seeds will allow families to grow vegetables to improve their vitamin intake while also having some produce available for sale at market," said Sara McHattie, FAO Area Emergency Coordinator in North Darfur. "This means farmers will carry out at least some of their livelihood activities, despite the enormous disruption caused by the conflict."
The seeds should enable each household to produce an estimated US$300 worth of vegetables.
"That sort of income level is good in a crisis situation such as this," said McHattie. "So many people have lost access to income-generation activities completely."
FAO will also help more than 5 000 displaced households save one of their main assets through the provision of veterinary supplies and vaccines for some 12 000 donkeys. Essential draught animals, donkeys are often the sole means of transport to water points and markets and, in the last year, have saved thousands of lives by carrying families and their belongings away from villages under attack.
The health of donkeys belonging to IDPs has been particularly affected by lack of access to fodder and veterinary services. The funding made available by FAO will also cover training of community animal health monitors.
"The loss of donkeys is a significant blow to families, not only today as they struggle to cope in the camps, but also tomorrow when they must return home and rebuild their lives without their most important asset," said Adam Salih, FAO Assistant Livestock Coordinator, based in Khartoum.
Farming on the brink
Since the 1980s, Sudan's Darfur region has experienced disputes and competition between pastoralists and settled farming communities over land and scarce natural resources.
In 2003 the situation seriously deteriorated and escalated into open conflict, resulting in the displacement of more than one million people.
The looting and burning of villages and the grazing of their fields by assailants' herds have depleted traditional seed stocks used for planting. Large amounts of stored seeds have also been consumed, sold, burnt or looted, and animals have also been stolen.
As a result, thousands of affected households have virtually no means to procure the most essential agricultural inputs.
Three times as many households need help
FAO has received around US$2.9 million from donors so far and has been able to help approximately 70 000 households in Darfur to date.
The new project will raise the total number of households benefiting from FAO agricultural and livestock assistance to over 110 000. But FAO estimates that more than 330 000 households in Darfur currently need food and agricultural assistance.
An additional US$4.9 million has been pledged by donors and more funding is expected, but the precarious security situation in the region has severely limited access to many of the most vulnerable households.
"This new project gives an essential boost to our activities and ability to meet the needs of farmers and IDPs in Darfur. But we are still reaching less than half of the people who require assistance," said Marc Bellemans, FAO's Emergency Coordinator for North Sudan.
"The problem will grow even more severe as the main agricultural season approaches in April and May, when there is a short window of time for the important cereal crop to be planted," he added. "We hope that international donors will provide timely assistance so that we can provide farmers with seeds and they can once again provide food for themselves and their communities, reducing their dependence on food aid."
Information Officer, FAO
(+39) 06 570 56146
e-mail this article