Seeds and tools rushed to flood-stricken farmers in Somalia and Myanmar

Two emergency projects have been swiftly put into operation to rush much needed seeds and tools to flood-stricken farmers in Somalia and Myanmar.

FAO began buying packages of vegetable seeds in early December to be airlifted into Somalia and distributed to some 20 000 farm families affected by devastating floods in October/November. Exceptionally heavy rains in the Ethiopian highlands and a month of torrential rains in southern Somalia attributed to the El Nino phenomenon caused the Juba River to burst its banks inside Somalia, bringing entire villages and the harvest of the country's breadbasket regions under water. Some 230 000 people have been displaced by the flooding and 21 000 head of livestock have been lost. The Juba River stretches for 900 kilometres across Somalia through the most fertile and densely populated regions of Gedo, Middle and Lower Juba. In Gedo, displaced farmers are reported to be already returning to their farms and can start planting now.

Sesame and cowpea seeds as well as small hand tools will also be included in the US$400 000 agricultural rehabilitation project coordinated by the FAO's Special Relief Operations Service. The tools will be manufactured locally to save time and money and provide income to poor blacksmiths in the region. The FAO project provides direct assistance to the decimated farming community - over 100 000 farm families were estimated to have been affected by the flooding - with other international agencies addressing urgent needs of food, shelter and medicine.

Meanwhile in Myanmar, more than 124 000 farmers are reported to have lost their crops to flooding that affected 13 of the country's 14 states in July and August. Subsequent floods in September/October washed away all attempts at replanting as well as crops in new areas. About 510 000 hectares of cropped land were flooded, 280 000 of which were totally destroyed. Farmers are now being encouraged to plant winter crops. In response to the acute seed shortage, FAO is providing sunflower, soybean and vegetable seeds to the most affected farm families under a US$318 000 agricultural rehabilitation project. Seeds are scheduled to be in farmers' hands by early 1998.

15 December 1997

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