FAO in the Philippines

Disaster-affected rice farmers in Central Luzon reap first harvest for 2016

FAO Representative in the Philippines José Luis Fernández joined beneficiary farmers for a ceremonial harvest. (Photo courtesy of DA/Christian Paul Perez)

PAMPANGA – Rice farmers in Central Luzon are seeing a glimmer of hope after successive natural disasters swept their crop fields in 2015. About 18 900 of them who were able to re-plant their damaged farms with support from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in partnership with the Department of Agriculture (DA) are now reaping their first harvest for 2016.

Typhoon Koppu (local name: Lando) made landfall in Aurora Province in October last year. In December, barely two months later, Typhoon Melor (local name: Nona) struck. In both instances, the region was among the hardest hit in terms of damage to agriculture, with total production losses estimated at over USD 175 million. Many of the farmers who lost their newly harvested and ready-to-harvest rice to the two typhoons already suffered from the impacts of dry spells and drought earlier in 2015.

“This first harvest represents the recovery of thousands of households spread across 36 municipalities in the provinces of Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Tarlac and Aurora,” said FAO Representative in the Philippines José Luis Fernández who joined beneficiary farmers in Candaba, Pampanga for a ceremonial harvest.

“With the assistance they received, we hope that the incomes they lost as well as the crisis they endured would not continue to destabilize their livelihoods and undermine food and nutrition security for much longer,” he added.

At the request of DA, FAO mobilized its Typhoon Koppu Response in December 2015. Bags of certified rice seeds and complete fertilizer were delivered to affected rice-farming households to complement the farm inputs that the Government provided. The timely assistance enabled them to catch the imminent planting season, which ended in January. Missing that window could have resulted in six more months without adequate income or falling into greater debt – a serious issue that farmers face especially in times of crisis.

“As small farmers, what we received is a big thing for us even if it was just one bag of certified rice seeds and fertilizer for each of us. It is a big help to not have to buy those seeds and fertilizer so that we can start over,” said farmer Eugenia Liwag of Candaba, Pampanga.

“The income we will earn from this will be used to pay our debt from the last cropping that was damaged by the typhoons. Some of the rice we harvested will be for our family’s consumption. We will also save some of the seeds for the next planting season,” she added.

Farmer beneficiaries are expected to produce a total of 99 200 metric tonnes of palay (paddy rice), which could generate 59 500 metric tonnes of milled rice that can feed about 522 000 people for one year.

Farmer Ignacio Sagum explained that before typhoons Koppu and Melor, he harvested an average of 80 bags of palay per hectare. “Now we were able to harvest about 100 bags also because of what we have learned through FAO,” he said.

With significant savings from the Typhoon Koppu response, FAO is also distributing assorted vegetable seeds such as bitter gourd, ampalaya, string beans, squash, eggplant, okra and tomato to 7 400 farming households and urea fertilizer to 13 490 households affected by Typhoon Melor.

FAO’s Typhoon Koppu and Typhoon Melor response is supported by the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund, the Government of Belgium, through FAO’s Special Fund for Emergency and Rehabilitation Activities, and through re-programmed savings from the contributions of Ireland, New Zealand and Norway to FAO’s earlier Typhoon Haiyan Emergency, Recovery and Rehabilitation Programme.

“We remain committed to supporting the Government in helping the most vulnerable agricultural communities affected by disasters to rise from hardship and come out even stronger,” Fernández added.