A US$0.5million (FJ$1million) emergency fund provided by the United Nations to support the work of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) with the Ministry of Agriculture was announced yesterday.
The "Emergency support to re-establish agriculture and fisheries livelihoods affected by Tropical Cyclone Yasa" project is made possible through the emergency release of funds of the United Nations Central Emergency Relief Funds.
Making the announcement in Votua Village, Lekutu in Bua, United Nations Resident Coordinator for the Pacific His Excellency Sanaka Samarasinha said the objective of the 6 month project was to restore the food security and livelihoods of affected agricultural households.
"We understand that food security is a real concern, in fact I understood this the first day I came to your community," said Mr. Samarasinha, referring to his first visit shortly after TC Yasa.
"This livelihoods initiative is going to assist 2,200 farmers, we have focused on the most vulnerable farmers and the Ministry of Agriculture Fiji is working very closely with the FAO and other NGOs to help identify who are the most vulnerable farmers and we've focused this initiative on subsistence farmers, and amongst these subsistence farmers, we want to make sure that we target the most affected," said the UN Resident Coordinator.
H.E Samarasinha shared that they would ensure that the initiative also benefit women and women headed households also highlighting that people with special needs were a priority; "we want to be sure that we have tailor made assistance on top of the package of assistance that is coming to you through this project for those families who have special needs in this community."
Accepting the relief fund and project on behalf of the Fijian Government, Minister for Rural and Maritime Development, Disaster Management, Defence, National Security and Policing Hon. Inia Seruiratu acknowledged the continuous support of the United Nations and donor agencies.
"This speaks volumes of the United Nations commitment to Fiji during these trying times, Vanua Levu as you understand is a more primary industry based region in terms of their livelihoods and of course through humanitarian assistance, we've not only assisted in terms of food security but I believe with this package, we are not only assisting in terms of food security, but in terms of livelihoods as well," said Hon. Seruiratu.
Meanwhile, Minister for Agriculture Hon. Dr. Mahendra Reddy acknowledged the impact that the project would have on ordinary Fijians whose lives were greatly affected due to TC Yasa and more recently TC Ana.
"The beauty of this project is that it deals with three different groups of people, not just the farmers will benefit but the farming households, the households of our fishermen and in particular households with people with special needs and I want to thank H.E Samarasinha for ensuring that households with persons with disabilities are not overlooked," said Hon. Reddy.
"This package, worth $1million provided by the UN through the FAO Office for agricultural households as well as households engaged in inshore fisheries will allow them to re-engage in the primary sector, fisheries or agriculture to produce for their household as well as generate surplus that can meet other cash demands that the household has," he added.
Minister Reddy made special mention of the timeliness of the assistance and praised the UN for rendering their support through the project within weeks of TC Yasa; "within 8 weeks of the cyclone, we were able to put together a very definitive proposal with detailed summary undertaken by the NDMO and the Ministry of Agriculture of each agricultural household affected by TC Yasa and we were able to put that data to demonstrate who were the most vulnerable households of those affected," he said.
The UNs intervention through the project will strengthen and restore the farming capacities of 2,200 households and entails the provision of planting materials, along with tool kits to be distributed to these 2,200 households across the hardest hit provinces in Fiji.
Another component of the project is targeting the small-scale fishermen who have lost all their assets and will target more than 1,100 vulnerable fishermen; additionally, the project will ensure specific attention is paid to people living with disabilities in affected communities with the FAO to liaise with the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation and the Pacific Disability Forum to identify people with disabilities and propose to adjust and tailor the agricultural packages to be adapted to their specific needs and capacities.