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NAIROBI, 21 July (IRIN) - Some 70,000 vulnerable rural households in the Sudanese state of North Darfur have received seeds and agricultural tools from the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), the agency said on Wednesday.
"Some 550 tonnes of field crop seeds, including millet, sorghum and groundnut, and around 79,000 tools, including hand and donkey ploughs, were distributed outside displacement camps to conflict-affected households and to host communities to encourage them to stay on their land," FAO said.
The assistance is expected to help these families produce enough food to feed themselves for almost three months.
The agency said as a result of the two-year war in the region, drought and failed harvests, few North Darfurian farmers had seeds to plant; the available seeds would not be sufficient to cultivate even a third of the area that was cultivated before the conflict.
"This is the third agriculture season missed by farmers," Bashir Abdel Rahman, FAO's Agriculture Field Officer in North Darfur, said in the statement.
He added: "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."
Helping farmers to stay on their land and preventing further displacement into camps was key to the FAO-supported household food security activities in Darfur, the agency said.
"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," Sara McHattie, North Darfur Area Emergency Coordinator, said.
The agency said more than 100,000 households in all three states of Darfur would receive crop seeds and other assistance from FAO this agricultural season.
"FAO could achieve better results with more funding," McHattie added.
The agency said it had received US $7 million of its $15 million 2005 appeal for Darfur, and added that on receipt of the remainder, it would be able to assist an additional 100,000 families in the region with agricultural and livestock supplies.
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