Rome, 20 July 2005 - The rainy season has just begun in North Darfur, and around 70 000 vulnerable rural families will be able to plant with seeds and agricultural tools provided by FAO, the UN agency said today.
Some 550 tonnes of field crop seeds, including millet, sorghum and groundnut, and around 79 000 tools, including hand tools and donkey ploughs, were distributed outside displacement camps to conflict-affected households, but also to households in host communities to encourage people to stay on their land. The assistance will help these families produce enough food to feed themselves for almost three months.
Conflict, drought and failed harvests
There has been tension in Darfur for many years over land and grazing rights, however, after two years of conflict, drought and failed harvests, very few farmers in North Darfur have seeds to plant. The seeds that are available are not enough to cultivate even a third of the area that was under crops before the conflict.
"This is the third agriculture season missed by farmers," says Bashir Abdel Rahman, FAO Agriculture Field Officer in North Darfur. "Seeds were looted, lost during the escape to displaced persons camps, eaten or simply damaged due to improper storage. The harvest for the last two years was poor because of displacement, insecurity and erratic and below average rainfall."
Most of the population of North Darfur are dependant on locally produced grain for food. Last year's harvest met only 15 percent of the region's food needs, thus increasing the caseload for the already protracted food aid distributions.
Rebuilding rural livelihoods
Delivering seeds to farmers outside the displacement camps gives them the opportunity to produce food for their families and to generate needed cash income to re-establish their livelihoods. Helping farmers stay on their land and preventing further displacement into camps is key to the FAO-supported household food security activities in Darfur.
The cash generated from agricultural activities will support children's education and health care and allow the purchase of essential goods and services such as clothes, mats, oil and sugar. Secondary markets that have been inactive because of insufficient grain supplies can be revived, revitalizing the local economy.
In the whole of Darfur, more than 100 000 households will receive crop seeds and other assistance from FAO this agricultural season.
"FAO could achieve better results with more funding," says Sara McHattie, North Darfur Area Emergency Coordinator. "For one tenth of what is spent on food aid for a month, enough seeds can be purchased to help the same number of people produce their own food for several months."
FAO also supports communities with livestock programmes including camp-based veterinary interventions, donkey feeding programmes, poultry stocking, training of community animal health workers and pasture land restoration.
By addressing food security needs through adequate livelihoods support, FAO provides families and communities with assistance to restart farming and pastoral activities, providing a cost-effective, life-saving intervention and promoting self-reliance and an early exit from food aid.
More than twice as many households still need assistance
In response to its appeal for $15 million for Darfur for 2005, FAO has received around $7 million to date, or approximately 45 percent of its funding needs. Receipt of the remaining funding would allow FAO and its implementing partners to assist an additional 100 000 families with agricultural and livestock supplies in the three Darfur states.
Information Officer, FAO
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