FAO in Bangladesh

Emergency support for Haor communities in response to COVID-19


Dhaka, Bangladesh – FAO and the Government of Japan have launched a new project that will provide emergency assistance for highly vulnerable Haor communities affected by COVID-19.

It will provide innovative support to strengthen food security by boosting agricultural productivity and helping farmers sell their produce, while ensuring safe conditions that will reduce the spread of the disease. 

The project, named ‘Emergency support to strengthen food and nutrition security of communities in Haor areas through innovative food systems approaches for reducing propagation of COVID-19’ will cover two key rice-producing districts in the Haor wetlands. Without support, the targeted 75,000 direct beneficiaries would likely slip below the ultra-poor poverty level.

The funding agreement for the USD 1 120 000 project was formalized through exchange of a note verbale at FAO’s headquarters in Rome, Italy, between FAO and the Embassy of Japan in Italy.

The two Haor districts – Netrokona and Kishoreganj – were ranked second and third respectively as National Priority Geographic Areas based on physical, socio-economic, and disaster vulnerabilities in the recent COVID-19 Multi-sectoral Anticipatory Impact and Needs Analysis, conducted by the UN’s Humanitarian Coordination Task Team.

The Haor region is the main source of Boro rice (winter rice) – which is grown in one season. The region also produces potatoes, sweet potatoes, groundnuts, mustard, and pulses.

COVID-19 has led to labour shortages and increased costs for agricultural labour, highlighting the need to develop mechanization. Supporting farmers with the tools they need, and facilitating safe working conditions, will help in the effort to harvest rice and other crops and bring them to market. 

“This project will provide much needed support at a crucial time,” said Robert. D Simpson, FAO Representative in Bangladesh. “It will help struggling local communities while safeguarding the health of key agricultural workers, and contribute to the wider food security of the country through protecting its most important crop. We are thankful to the Government of Japan for its continued support of food and agricultural development in Bangladesh.”

The Japanese Government is taking a leading and active role in tackling the COVID-19 crisis, in cooperation with the international community. In particular, through FAO the Japanese Government is providing support to strengthen food security over the medium to long-term, combined with taking urgent measures to protect lives and minimize negative social and economic impacts.

Japan already funds a range of forestry and land management projects that help vulnerable communities in Bangladesh. In partnership with the Forest Department, FAO has restored 200 hectares of degraded land and watersheds in Cox’s Bazar, reducing greatly the risk of landslides and floods. The work is seen a model the rest of the country.

With support from Japan, FAO has also conducted key surveys to improve watershed management planning, formed a network of community groups to promote efficient use of water for agriculture, and established nurseries that provide sustainable locally grown trees for reforestation programmes. In addition, funds from Japan support COVID-19 public safety messaging in Cox’s Bazar.

Project period: 6 July 2020 to 31 March 2021.