Belgium’s USD 300 000 contribution to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ (FAO’s) emergency programme in Fiji is assisting more than 5 000 families (approximately 25 000 people) struggling to recover from Tropical Cyclone Winston in northern Viti Levu and the maritime islands.
Tropical Cyclone Winston – one of the strongest cyclones to ever strike Fiji and one of the most severe to ever hit the South Pacific – killed a total of 44 people across the island nation, injured 126 and affected a total of 350 000 (approximately 40 percent of the population).
The cyclone caused widespread damage to the agriculture sector — crops, livestock and fisheries — including the informal and formal markets. With standing crops ruined and markets either destroyed or inaccessible in many affected areas, food security became a serious concern. The initial rapid assessment led by Fiji’s Ministry of Agriculture found that 100 percent of crops were damaged in the most affected areas – a loss of about USD 61 million.
At the request of the Government of Fiji, FAO is providing emergency assistance to restore agricultural- and fisheries-based production systems for subsistence farmers and fishers. The contribution from Belgium has been crucial to tackle three major life-threatening issues:
Increasing threats to human and animal health associated with the spread of zoonotic disease. Belgian-funded activities are benefiting at least 3 000 people in 12 areas through the provision of test kits and training of national biosecurity monitoring teams on epidemiological assessments and data analysis, and advice on disease control measures. National biosecurity monitoring teams will be trained on vaccination in the field, and a vaccination campaign will be initiated in the targeted areas. By strengthening the capacities of Government technicians to put in place biosecurity measures to prevent the spread of zoonotic diseases, FAO is also helping the authorities prevent further risks and increase resilience to future crises.
Felled trees – a source of pests if not removed – and limited availability of reconstruction materials in rural communities where houses and infrastructure were destroyed. These activities are assisting 1 000 people in 20 rural communities by providing saw mills, chain saws and safety equipment, and conducting hands-on training on safe tree milling and technical advice on best management practices.
Widespread damage to small-scale and subsistence fish farmers whose saw their fish and aquatic plants swept away and their fish feed damaged by floods and rain associated with the cyclone. A total of 100 aquaculture farmers and 15 communities (750 people) are being assisted with (i) materials to repair ponds and hatcheries, clean debris and repair small-scale ponds; (ii) resumption of the full value chain, from providing feed for growing fish to assisting in the preparation of products for sale and with linkages to markets, to enabling farmers to restock or re-equip; and (iii) train lead farmers on new breeding methods.
Belgium remains a top donor to the FAO’s Special Fund for Emergency and Rehabilitation Activities, which enables both to rapidly respond to a crisis, financing the immediate purchase of essential agricultural inputs and to quickly launch field activities to protect livelihoods and safeguard food security and nutrition.