Tsunami recovery in Thailand: US$1 million for building back fishing and farming communities

Thailand, 20 Jul 2005 -- Much needed support and equipment for fishing and crop production will be provided for building back livelihoods of tsunami affected poor families and boosting the sustained prosperity of communities in southern Thailand, FAO said today.

FAO will be guiding a unique partnership -- involving the Thai ministry of agriculture, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and civil society -- to move forward much needed support and basic equipment for boasting livelihoods and incomes through sustainable farming and fishing activities in Thailand's coastal zones struck by the December 2004 tsunami.

With a grant of US$1 million from the government of Greece, FAO will implement two projects over the next six months -- one for the rehabilitation of farming communities, the other to support fishing communities. Chaired by Suthiporn Chirapandha, the Thai deputy permanent secretary of the ministry of agriculture and cooperatives, a signing ceremony for the two projects was held today.

The fishery project will explore opportunities for the supply of boat engines and other equipment to groups of small-scale fisher folk. This will allow the groups to empower their communities. In-depth technical assessments, stakeholder analysis and fishing resource capacity surveys will look into the level of available fishing resources and identify the optimum number of fishing boats to ensure that the limited natural resources are not over exploited.

For the agricultural sector, various inputs will be provided as part of a technical assistance package, in addition to studies -- such as a soil salinity survey -- for longer term planning of agriculture rehabilitation and development. Equipment and support will be given for chemical-free vegetable production as well as basic agricultural inputs requested by tsunami affected farmers such as gypsum and organic fertilizers for soil reclamation, and seedlings for coconut, oil palm and fruit tree.

"FAO believes that it is now time to move forward with medium and longer term actions to promote sustainable livelihoods of the coastal communities, integrated and participatory coastal resource management and eco-system development," FAO's deputy regional representative for Asia and the Pacific Hiroyuki Konuma stressed during the signing ceremony.

The fishery project is managed by FAO with assistance from UNDP. "This project represents what UNDP aims to achieve in Thailand and accross the globe -- partnerships that fight poverty and protect the vulnerable," said Joana Merlin-Scholtes, UNDP resident representative in Thailand. "This great partnership will give families the tools to be able to support themselves again, but also give them the means to reach further, the means to 'build back better'."

In close consultation with beneficiaries, village leaders, central and local authorities as well as representatives of civil society and non-governmental organizations, specifications for project inputs and beneficiary selection criteria will be drawn up to make sure that the project interventions are focused on the most vulnerable tsunami-affected households and properly responds to their basic needs.

During the first six months of this year, FAO provided immediate emergency assistance and production inputs to the tune of US$650 000. Three thousand families were given 800 fish cages, 180 000 fish fingerings, 18 000 fish traps, 247 tons of gypsum for soil reclamation, 599 tons of organic fertilizer, 15 000 fruit seedlings, 50 tons of animal feeds, 15 000 pieces of mineral blocks for animals and other associated inputs and services.

This emergency aid is now followed by medium term actions for ensuring responsible fisheries management and sustainable agricultural production.