International aid focus shifts to long-term food security in Bosnia and Herzegovina

International aid to wartorn Bosnia and Herzegovina is shifting gradually from emergency to development assistance as peace initiatives take effect, although a significant proportion of the population continues to remain highly vulnerable with respect to food quality and availability.

Seed recipient looks out over new crop

A major casualty of the three-year war has been the agriculture sector. The large population movements that have occurred since the war's beginning in 1992, as well as the damage caused to farm equipment, livestock, crops and input supplies, have devastated on-farm production. Essential agricultural inputs for food production and preservation - including high-quality seed, fertilizer, hand tools and food preservatives - are still in short and irregular supply and their cost is beyond the reach of those most in need.

Early aid efforts focused on emergency distribution of inputs to the most vulnerable pockets of the population in war-affected areas. Over three years, FAO's Special Relief Operations Service distributed over 15 000 tonnes of seed (wheat, potatoes, barley, onions), 300 000 vegetable packs and 7 000 tonnes of fertilizer to vulnerable farmers through projects funded by the governments of Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Since 1994 FAO has served as the UN lead agency for the coordination of agencies, donors and NGOs providing relief and short-term rehabilitation interventions for agriculture in the country.

In 1997, the Organization continues to address the most immediate needs of displaced people and poor families in the areas of Gorazde, Sanski Most and Kulen Vakuf near Bihac, as well as women's groups displaced from Srebrenica.

Recent international assistance efforts are attempting to bridge emergency agricultural relief with rehabilitation and development to improve food security. For example, the FAO project Emergency Production of High-Quality Seed for War-Affected Areas in Bosnia and Herzegovina, begun in July 1996, is working to establish a seed production and maintenance network throughout the country. Funded by Japan through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the project's aim is to increase the local production of high-quality commercial seed.

An immediate objective of the project is the installation of a seed quality control laboratory in Sarajevo, to be funded by the Government of Switzerland. The Seed Quality Control Expertise in Sarajevo for Bosnia and Herzegovina project is set to establish an accredited and operational seed quality control laboratory in line with international standards.

Seed quality control activities came to a halt in Bosnia and Herzegovina when the former seed testing facility was completely devastated during the first year of the war. All of the laboratory's equipment was either destroyed or stolen, qualified staff left, and no other intermin laboratory took over the operations. Seed samples from the country are currently being sent abroad for quality testing.

FAO's Investment Centre has also been intensely involved in efforts to revive agriculture and long-term food security in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Immediately after the Dayton Peace Accord was signed in December 1995, FAO fielded a reconnaissance mission to identify areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina where emergency funding was most needed. As a result of this mission, a US$50 million Emergency Farm Reconstruction project was launched to boost agricultural production, improve domestic food security and create income-generating employment for the war-affected rural population. The project, co-financed by the World Bank, the European Union and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), provided an emergency contribution to restoring livestock, equipment and other essential assets of private farms. More than 4 000 tractors and harvesters, as well as nearly 4 000 pregnant heifers and 1 400 goats, were procured and imported, benefiting 8 000 of the country's neediest farmers. The project managed to start distributing the animals and equipment by June 1996, just six months after it had first been formulated, and it is now fully implemented. FAO, which was responsible for the project's formulation, is now assisting the country to evaluate its impact and sustainability. At the same time, the World Bank and IFAD are preparing a second phase.

The Investment Centre has also focused on Bosnia and Herzegovina's forestry sector, which somehow survived the civil strife relatively unscathed. At the end of the war, the forests were remarkably intact and 75 percent of the industry was more or less untouched. But there was no equipment to carry the trees from the forests to the lumberyards to jump-start this badly needed money-making enterprise. At present, specialized tractors, trucks, chainsaws and other equipment are ready for mobilization under an emergency forestry project financed by the World Bank and the European Union, which also aims at providing building material for reconstruction of damaged houses. "These activities are evidence of FAO's active participation, not just to give away seeds and other agricultural inputs, but to take a much broader approach to development," said Lennart Ljungman, a forestry expert who led the Investment Centre team sent to assess damage resulting from the four-year war.

The Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina has expressed an interest in broadening the involvement of FAO and the Investment Centre. In July of this year the Government officially requested to participate in FAO's Special Programme for Food Security. As a low-income food-deficit country, Bosnia and Herzegovina is eligible for assistance under this programme, which aims to improve national food security through rapid increases in food production and availability. An Investment Centre mission is currently being carried out to explore the best approaches for the programme's implementation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. At the same time, the Serb Republic will be informed about the possibilities of participating in the Special Programme.

The Investment Centre helps developing countries mobilize investments for agriculture and rural development by assisting them in identifying and formulating projects for funding by both national and multilateral institutions.

More information on the FAO Investment Centre.

2 September 1997

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