One month after Typhoon Haiyan struck a devastating blow to the Philippines, farmers who lost essential crops and supplies are receiving the first wave of emergency seeds, restoring hope for a productive planting season and much-needed food for the coming year.
The Philippines' Department of Agriculture (DA), joined by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, have begun delivering the first rice and corn seed allocations to rural communities in the Visayan island group. As a result, some of the Philippines' most vulnerable, rural farmers—many of whom also lost loved ones, as well as homes and other assets—will now be able to restore their livelihoods in time for the ongoing planting season and secure a harvest in March-April.
"Seed distributions have come at a critical moment, considering the Typhoon struck at the start of the planting season," Rodrigue Vinet, the FAO's acting country representative in the Philippines, stressed.
"Without FAO support these farmers would have been unable to plant rice by January, and would have had no harvest in March/April. This means they would have been unable to harvest rice for almost a year—until October or November 2014."
"Because we are able to get farmers the seeds and inputs they need in time, they will be able to produce at least 2 tonnes of rice in the March/April harvest, enough rice to feed a family of five for a year, and generate vital income from surplus," Hiroyuki Konuma, regional representative of the FAO for the Asia-Pacific Region, added.
The emergency seed donations were made possible with swift international support from the governments of Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, Ireland, Norway, the United Kingdom's Department for International Development, the United Nations' Central Emergency Response Fund and the general public, as well as with the mobilisation of FAO's own emergency funding mechanisms.
Rice and income secured
Over the last three days, around 1,040 vulnerable rice farmers from the hardest-hit Eastern and Western Visayas, across the central swath of the Filipino archipelago, have been gathering to retrieve 40kg bags of seeds each.
Merlyn Fagtanac, a farmer from Barangay Santa Cruz in Dumalag, whose farm and house were destroyed by the Typhoon, said the support had been “life-saving".
"Nothing could be more beneficial than the seeds we so desperately need to make sure we can plant in time for this planting season. We lost everything but at least now we can look forward to the coming rice harvest," said Fagtanac, whose two-hectare rice paddy field has already been cleared and cleaned for planting.
The FAO and its partners are already providing seeds for 55,000 hectares to now be planted in the December/January planting season. The FAO has the resources to provide inputs for an extra 8,332 hectares, and thanks to the Eastern Visayas region's extended planting window, these needs will be met in late January early February.
In addition to the seeds, 50 kg bags of fertiliser, as well as tools and small irrigation water pumps, are being delivered.
Massive crop losses
Seventy-four percent of the farmers in Regions VI and VIII of the Visayas alone reported that their standing crops were lost, in addition to stored seed and other inputs, according to the Multi-Cluster/Sector Initial Rapid Assessment by key UN and non-UN humanitarian partners.