UN seed investment in Pakistan yields four times its value in crops

30 March 2011
Flood-affected farmer carries away wheat seeds donated by US and distributed by FAO

Four million people in areas of Pakistan stricken by last year’s floods will now have sufficient food for the next six months thanks to a United Nations-sponsored $54 million investment in quality wheat seeds that is expected to produce a crop worth $190 million.

“The investment made by donors has been quadrupled,” UN Food and Agriculture (FAO) Emergency Operations Service Chief Daniele Donati said today. “Moreover, farmers will be able to save the seeds from this year’s harvest to plant again later this year.”

More than 18 million people in Pakistan were affected by last summer’s severe flooding, which caused extensive damage to housing, infrastructure and crops.

Under the FAO programme, the agency spent $54 million of international donor funding buying and distributing quality wheat seeds as part of its emergency intervention that began last August.

Once the harvest is completed, this donation will have produced a crop worth almost $190 million in wheat flour, the main staple, at current local retail prices.

This will yield enough food for six months for half a million poor rural households, with an average family size of eight.

As part of its immediate response to the floods, FAO led the UN’s so-called agriculture cluster, which included over 200 organizations and reached 1.4 million farming families across Pakistan.

The agency received $92 million of its $107 million appeal, which has enabled it to shore up the smallholder agricultural system in the widespread areas affected by the flooding.

As well as supporting the “Rabi” wheat planting season, it is estimated that FAO saved the lives of almost a million livestock by supplying temporary shelter and enough de-worming tablets and dry animal feed for almost 290,000 families. Green fodder is now becoming available as the harsh Pakistan winter turns to spring.

“The livestock interventions really paid off,” Mr. Donati said. “It costs 10 times more to buy a new animal, which often represent a family’s lifetime savings.”

FAO is also overseeing a thousand cash-for-work schemes by which workers are paid to clear irrigation canals blocked with silt and flood debris. One severely affected province not to have received much help is Sindh, noted the agency, since fields remained waterlogged well after the end of the Rabi planting season, and in some cases are still inundated.

The agency will soon distribute quality rice seeds to almost 25,000 families there for the upcoming planting season, but over 700,000 families will require assistance over the coming months.

FAO, in partnership with the Pakistani Government, has identified recovery priorities for the next two years to increase crop, livestock, fishery and agro-forestry production, improve diets and nutrition and boost agriculture extension services to offer advice to landless and smallholder farmers.

“Pursuit of these core objectives will significantly reduce the vulnerability of the populations in question, improve food production and income generation, and increase affected communities’ resilience to future shocks,” Mr. Donati said.

FAO expects its recovery programme to cost $94 million, enough to assist 430,000 families in 24 districts. An Early Recovery Working Group, co-chaired by the Pakistani Government’s National Disaster Management Authority and the UN Development Programme (UNDP), has been set up with eight sectors covered including one on Agriculture and Food Security, co-chaired by FAO, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture.

 

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