FAO in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea

FAO success stories in DPR Korea


Cultivation of wild fruit trees in DPR Korea


In DPR Korea, a wide variety of fruit trees such as acorn, tara vine fruit and wild grape, chokeberry, and seabuckthorn are grown in forests which local populations collect from the wild. These fruits are consumed raw and are also processed into a variety of products. For example, the cities and counties of North Phyongan province gathered thousands of tonnes of wild fruits in 2020. The counties of Pyoktong, Sakju and Unsan harvested large quantities of wild fruits this year which contribute to boosting local household food and nutrition security.

Particularly Yonthan county in North Hwanghae Province abounds in black chokeberry trees. A black chokeberry begins to bear fruits when it is three years old, yields up to 20 kg of them at the maximum and is productive for more than 20 years[1].

Many of wild fruit trees have unique medicinal properties. Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) is known to contain vitamins P, C, B complex, E and PP, sugar and organic acids as well as physiological activators which help dilate blood vessels and lower cholesterol levels. Aronia fruits are processed into fermented vinegar, fermented vinegar juice (syrup),  which are popular drinks in DPRK[2]. Similarly Seabuckthorn is rich in various medicinal and nutritional components, and is called the king of wild fruits. The fruit is highly nutritious containing ten times as much as vitamin C found in oranges. The fruit contains high concentrations of oil and vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, K and other active ingredients. It also contains 6.4–9.5 percent sugar and 1.07–3.55 percent organic acid. The berries can be eaten as raw or processed into juice and jellies, purees and sauces. The fruit has also a range of proven medicinal uses.

Of late some of these fruit trees are being planted as part of the ongoing country-wide reforestation programme. In 2020, more than 98 514 000 wild fruit trees were planted throughout the country, which greatly exceeds the number planted in the previous year. [3]

Aronia melanocarpa (Chokeberry)

 Aronia melanocarpa is now widely cultivated in the DPRK. According to KCNA, well over 2.8 million Aronia melanocarpa trees have been planted over the past decades across the country. The tree is now grown in all parts of the country, except the areas over 800 metres above sea level.[4]

During the spring planting campaign in 2021, Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) has been planted in more than 550 hectares of land across the country. Researchers of the Academy of Forest Science succeeded in markedly shortening of the production cycle and boosting the rooting rate. The experience gained by Yonthan County in North Hwanghae province in growing chokeberry with economic efficiency has been generalized for wide application. [5]

Planting of wild fruit trees

In South Hwanghae province, several thousands of hectares of wild fruit woods have been newly created. In 2021 spring planting drive, saplings of pine-nut, chokeberry, wild grape trees and tara vines have been planted. Attention is also being paid to care of planted saplings to increase their survival rates.[6]

A local company in Yonathan county in North Pyongan province started processing aronia fruits to produce value-added products.

Over 100 hectares of seabuckthorn forests were planted in the Unhung area of Ryanggang Province. The trees laden with yellow, yellowish brown and other colour fruits add beauty to the scenery of the area and serve as an asset for its economic development. The forests are also associated with the painstaking efforts of the scientists of the institute. As all parts of the tree, from the leaf to root, are rich in various medicinal and nutritional components, seabuckthorn is called the king of wild fruits. The researchers completed a method of mass-producing the saplings of the tree of good breed which grows well even in the alpine regions with a considerable variation in temperature between day and night. They also expounded its biological features and fruit productivity according to soil composition in northern areas, and several varieties of it have been inscribed on the list of national forest plants. “Active support of overseas compatriots was a great help to our success,” said Kim Un Ho, PhD.[7]

Fruit trees planted in recent years in northern Ryanggang province have started blossoming[8].


 [1] Yonthan County famous for black chokeberry, Pyongyang Times, 21 September 2020

 [2] Processed Aronia melanocarpa fruit proves medicinally effective, Pyongyang Times, 19 September 2020 (PT19 sep)


 [3] Many wild fruit trees planted in DPRK, KCNA, 27 December 2020

 [4] Aronia melanocarpa widely cultivated, Pyongyang Times, 1 August 2020

 [5] Area of Cultivating Aronia Melanocarpa Expands across Country, KCNA, 17 May 2021

 [6] Many Wild Fruit Trees Planted in South Hwanghae Province, KCNA 29 April 2021.

 [7] Research institute instrumental in pushing afforestation, Pyongyang Times, 25 November 2020

[8] Fruit Trees Acclimated in Northern Part of Country Grow in Number, Rodong Sinmun, 20 May 2021





Disaster Risk Reduction in DPR Korea: Agriculture and Food Production

Cooperative farm production in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is exposed to high risk of disasters stemming from natural hazards such as drought, flood, strong winds, landslides, tidal submergence and intrusion of salinity. The country’s vulnerability is further compounded by insufficient physical infrastructure which protects people and property from injury and harm. Because of international sanctions restricting import of machinery, equipment, spare parts, fuels, fertilizers and other related inputs, cooperative farms’ capacity to effectively respond to disasters by containing the damages they cause remain limited.

As a result, when natural disasters strike DPRK, the damaging effect to agricultural production rapidly spreads; even a short-duration natural hazard inflicts proportionately higher damage to growing crops. Also inability of cooperative farms to undertake comprehensive recovery and rehabilitation works in the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster paves the way for a subsequent natural hazard to strike with more destructive and damaging impacts.

According to INFORM Global Risk Index 2021, which is a composite measure of three dimensions of risk – hazard and exposure, vulnerability and lack of coping capacity, DPRK scored 5.4 (on a scale of 0-10), ranked 29th among 191 countries and was placed in high risk category[1]. The Asian Disaster Reduction Center (ADRC) in a report published in January 2021 stated that 4 out of 10 DPRK citizens were affected by natural disasters in 2019 — the worst ratio in all of Asia — while 395 per every 1 000 people suffered from the 2019 drought. [2] Stabilizing agricultural production through disaster risk reduction (DRR) is a priority of the Government of DPRK as reflected  in FAO’s Country Programming Framework for DPRK (2018-2021).  

Institutional and policy framework for DRR in DPRK

 The State Hydro-Meteorological Administration (SHMA) is the focal agency for meteorology, hydrology and oceanography. In November 2014, the State Committee on Emergency and Disaster Management (SCEDM) was formed as the nodal governmental agency responsible for disaster management. A law titled “The Law of the DPRK on the Disaster Prevention, Relief and Recovery” was adopted in June, 2014 as Decree No.76 issued by the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of DPRK, and was amended and supplemented in June 2017 as Decree No. 1775. And its Enforcement Regulation was enacted in October, 2017

In the agriculture sector, a department for disaster management (DDM) was formed in the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) in 2013 to coordinate and guide among the departments of MoA and across geographical scales disaster risk management (DRM) activities for the cropping, irrigation, construction and livestock sectors. Similar DRM unit was also formed in the Ministry of Land and Environmental Protection (MoLEP) and other line ministries. DPRK is also a signatory to the international treaty, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR). The DPRK Government drew up the National Environment Protection Strategy and a National Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction (2019-2030). The DRR Strategy is detailed in action plans for short term (2022), medium term (2026), and long term (2030)

Recent advances in DRR

According to media reports, the SHMA has upgraded the meteorological observation system which is introduced into major meteorological observation points. The system is a device which measures atmospheric temperature, relative humidity, wind direction and speed, rainfall, atmospheric pressure, ground temperature, underground temperature, evaporation, soil humidity and other three meteorological factors and automatically transmits data. The system's observation accuracy is reported to conform to the requirements of the World Metrological Organization.[3]

 The environmental information institute of the State Academy of Sciences has developed a programme for collecting and reporting information on national disaster which is being introduced in cities and counties. The researchers have also developed a map identifying areas with high risk of natural disasters like flood, drought, typhoon and landslide. An integrated flood control information system and terminal unit flood control information system has been developed and introduced to provide information related to floodwater level and overflow in order to take prompt measures.[4]  SHMA also introduced a system of forecasting offshore, deep-sea and coastal weather conditions so that the fishing, maritime transport and other sectors could promptly deal with disastrous weather conditions.[5]


FAO’s support in DRR

FAO provided technical assistance under a project funded by by the European Union Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department (ECHO), which produced a roadmap for DRR/DRM in the agriculture sector in 2015. It enabled improved targeting of interventions and allocation of resources to boost resilience of cooperative farms to extreme climate. During the period 2014–2018, FAO implemented several technical assistance and emergency projects that led to development of several DRR best practices – improved rice production technology, double cropping, agroforestry models and management practices suitable for application on croplands as well as adjacent sloping lands, and farm-level technical and managerial capacity for introduction of climate-smart technologies.


FAO has also implemented a project over 2018-2019 with a grant funding by the Swedish Government that strengthened disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation capacity of 9 600 cooperative farmers in five provinces – North Pyongan, South Pyongan, North Hwanghae, South Hwanghae and Pyongyang. For this purpose, selected cooperative farms were provided with inputs and equipment such as manual seeder for bed sowing, portable meteorological data measurement device, portable salinity meter, animal drawn wheat/barley seeder with space controller; pre-fabricated greenhouses, and plastic sheets. The project also developed five technical guidelines and 12 reporting formats for monitoring disaster risks, forecasting, warning and impact assessment for use by the focal points under MoA at national, provincial, county and farm levels. A total of 30 officials (23 male and seven female) were trained in early warning and early action (EWEA) methods for disaster management. The project supported updating technical resources developed by MoA for crops and livestock sector-specific risk analysis and vulnerability assessment and improving methodologies and maps used for assessment of natural hazard risks and vulnerability to risks.

The project also identified good practices of DRR/CCA for use in crop and livestock sectors and implemented them through on-going programme activities supported by FAO DPRK. A national-level workshop on DRR/DRM/CCA was held during 18-20 December 2018. It laid the groundwork for upgrading decision-making and coordination mechanism for DRR/M and CCA in the agriculture sector. Following the workshop, the MoA has initiated the process of forming a non-standing technical support team for DRM within the ministry. The identified DRR good practices are the most cost-effective approach to improve resilience of cooperative farms and sustain food production at adequate levels. The DPRK Ministry of Agriculture is taking steps for testing and validating DRR practices on a wider scale.

Following the drought in 2018, FAO undertook a project “Emergency support to vulnerable households to mitigate the impact of heat wave/drought and floods on agriculture in DPR Korea (TCP/DRK/3705) over the period 2018-2020. The project contributed to strengthening capacities of 6 103 farm households in the provinces of North and South Hamgyong, North and South Hwanghae, South Pyongan, and Nampo to mitigate the impacts of droughts and floods. Farmers were trained in CCA in testing new adaptation and risk prevention and mitigation practices through conservation agriculture and on-farm water management.

FAO implemented a pilot project “Early Warning Early Action (EWEA)” for Disaster Resilience and Food Security during 2019. The EWEA concept has been introduced in DPRK through workshops at national and sub-national levels (provincial, county, farm) in July-August 2019. It received a high level of interest from government agencies, county and farm managers and has been identified as one of the top priorities for strengthening DRM and CCA in the agriculture sector. Pre-defined and agreed early actions (such as changing to less water demanding crops in anticipation of a drought) and mechanisms for decision making and implementation at farm level are particularly important in the context of centrally planned agriculture production in DPRK. The project piloted the EWEA approach initiating an institutional process which is expected to lead to wider adoption of EWEA in the DPRK.


This process got a further boost in 2021 with the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), the funding agency, approving FAO-prepared project “Mitigating the impact of disasters using the anticipatory action approach in the Grain basket of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” to be implemented over 12 months beginning in June 2021. The project will support 30 most at-risk cooperative farms in disaster-prone provinces of South Hwanghae, North and South Pyongan to adopt the Anticipatory Action (or EWEA) approach enabling the country to move from the current reactive response to disasters to pro-active prevention, reducing vulnerabilities and strengthening preparedness capacity of the country.


Early Actions

Early actions are short-term disaster risk management interventions that are implemented during the critical time window between an early warning trigger (point in time when it is known that a disaster is likely to occur in the near future) and the actual occurrence of the disaster event. Early actions aim to prevent and/or mitigate the impact of the disaster on vulnerable households. Therefore, the term ‘early action’ can apply to different prevention, mitigation and preparedness measures which are implemented in relation to a warning or trigger and before the occurrence of the foreseen hazard.

In DPR Korea, repair and upgrading of critical infrastructure involving community participation constitutes an important aspect of DRR-related early actions. In 2021, South Hwanghe province carried out afforestation of sloppy lands to control soil erosion and prevention of landslides; and reinforcing embankments to protect farm land.[6]

 North Hwanghae Province pushed ahead with a spring land management drive on a mass scale to plant over 20 million trees, technically upgrade dozens of kilometres of roads and dredge the rivers by removing well over a million cubic metres of mud and other unwanted materials. The entire population of Ryanggang Province turned out to perform the spring land management properly. The City of Samjiyon and several counties carried out the dredging of rivers, earth filling to raise the ground level, repair of river banks and river improvement[7].


Success of EWEA approach

The effectiveness of the EWEA capacity already in place was demonstrated in response to a series of natural disasters, flood and three cyclones in a row, that hit DPRK during August – September 2020. Particularly noticeable were early warnings on torrential rainfall, winds issued by SHMA that triggered early actions, such as convening of emergency meetings chaired by Supreme Leader to prepare for the incoming floods and much wider dissemination of early warning through radio and TV prompting timelier and more comprehensive than in the past local-level early actions to reduce disaster risks and minimize losses and damages. SHMA also provided prompt and accurate information about the path and strength of the storms through TV and mobile communication network that helped minimize crop damages and losses. Personnel throughout the system was better prepared in advance—for example, KPA soldiers have been better mobilized to improve response times and teachers have been more organized to improve student safety. Meteorologists have also been more proactive in monitoring and forecasting potentially adverse developments.[8]


FAO’s assistance provided valuable support to institutionalizing DRR in DPRK’s agriculture sector that began taking shape since 2014-2015. Most of this support was provided through strengthening resilience of cooperative farms and vulnerable communities to recurrent extreme climate events. This support included provision of critical inputs to recover and resume production in the wake of natural disasters; development and dissemination of suitable location-specific DDR/DRM/CCA technologies and best practices; training farmers, technicians and farm managers  in using these technologies and innovations; and strengthening local-level institutional mechanisms for planning and implementing DRR/DRM measures. However, due to sanctions-related restrictions FAO’s planned interventions in national capacity building for climate change adaptation could not be materialized.

 Innovative DRR practices developed with FAO’s assistance are being incorporated in the Ministry of Agriculture’s core programme activities as well as in policy making. Emphasis is placed upon rapid dissemination of double cropping under the policy guidance “Let's actively adopt two farming methods and produce more grain” and “Important Farming Process.” More recently the DPRK Government has emphasized conserving ecological environment and taking strict measures to prevent natural disasters among the key measures for drastically increasing agricultural production. The Government has also taken a policy decision to protect the ecological environment and establish a national crisis control system against natural disasters. 

[1] https://drmkc.jrc.ec.europa.eu/inform-index/, accessed 28 November 2020

[2] https://www.nknews.org/2021/01/north-korea-suffered-the-worst-natural-disasters-in-all-of-asia-new-report-says/, accessed 26 January 2021

 [3] Latest Automatic Meteorological Observation System Developed, KCNA, 18 July 2019

[4] R&D effort under way for disaster relief, Pyongyang Times, 3 April 2020

[5] For Raising Scientific Level of Weather Forecast, Naenara News 26 January 2021

[6] Anti-land-sliding Project Is in Full Swing, Rodong Sinmun, 01 April 2021

[7] Spring land management widely pushed in North Hwanghae, Ryanggang provinces, Pyongyang Times, 25 May 2021

[8] North Korea’s Disaster Management: Getting Better, but a Long Way to Go

https://www.38north.org/2020/09/bkatzeffsilberstein091420/, 14 September 2020




Neatly patterned paddies line the slopping hills as you drive through the countryside in DPR Korea. Women and men are hard at work in the paddies watering and transplanting rice and maize seedlings.

It is a rather beautiful sunny May day during this planting season. Farming in DPR Korea is carried out by cooperative farms of around1000 - 2000. The Jangsuwon cooperative farm produces around 1500 tonnes of rice and 500 tonnes of maize which is threshed, cleaned, dried and stored for distribution to Korean families by the Ministry of Food Administration.

The agriculture sector, including forestry and fisheries, contributes 20 percent to DPR Korea's GDP and employs 36% of its workforce. Agriculture is important in ensuring food and livelihood security and socio-economic well-being of the people.

However, the inconsistent performance of the sector continues to threaten food and nutrition security. The sector is affected by harsh weather patterns, poor soil quality and lack of agricultural production inputs such as improved seeds, plastic sheeting, fertilizers, machinery and equipment and their related spare parts.

Mr. Kim Chol Kwang is a leading rice farmer in Namsan Dong, Sadong district in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. He is also the Vice Chairman of the Crop Research Institute at the Academy of Agricultural Science in Pyongyang, DPR Korea. At the crack of dawn, Kim heads out into the fields where he stays until late in the evening. He is joined by other farmers who work tirelessly to ensure an increase in crop yields at harvest time in October and November.

Conservation agriculture (CA) and double cropping (DC) can help to alleviate the recurring severe drought situation that is affecting food security in DPR Korea because CA technologies require less water for crop production.

Wheat, barley, rice, maize, soybean and potatoes planted under conservation agriculture cope better during the drought season because the crop covers planted using CA technology help in maintaining the soil moisture content. The legume crops provide a living cover but also have the ability to fix nitrogen from the air into the soil to improve soil fertility.

Farmers on the Yaksu Cooperative farm in Kang So County, Nampo City are lucky. The Taedong River runs right through the 730 hectare farm, ensuring a continuous supply of water for irrigation. But Mr. Nhi Ki Nam, the chairman of the cooperative arm explains that the farmers have their own troubles. Natural disasters are one: the recurring drought threatens to cut expected food production to half on this farm and across the country this year.

Mr. Nam says last year (2014) the drought affected the farm's capacity and production. This experience has pushed the farm to prepare in anticipation of the drought by building up its irrigation system.