FAO expands El Niño response in Mindanao
KIDAPAWAN CITY – The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization said it has expanded its El Niño response operations in southern Philippines to provide farm inputs to an additional 5,500 small-scale farming households and improve the resilience of communities in Mindanao.
“We have just completed the distribution of certified rice seeds, corn seeds, fertilizer and vegetable seeds in the provinces of Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao. These inputs will allow them to restart their livelihood activities and grow food for household consumption,” FAO Representative in the Philippines José Luis Fernández said in a statement sent to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.
The Department of Agriculture (DA) estimates that in these four provinces, some 101,000 hectares of crop areas were affected by El Niño, resulting in $17.9 million worth of production losses between February 2015 to July 2016.
The FAO project, which was mobilized at the request of the DA’S Regional Field Office XII and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (DAFARMM), complements Government efforts to address the impact of El Niño across 16 regions of the Philippines.
“We were affected by drought especially because the El Niño was so long and it happened at the same time as the rat infestation. Many of the farmers here experienced a 30 to 40 percent reduction in yield,” said Rahib Mamaluba, a farmertechnician from Mamasapano town in Maguindanao province.
To build the disaster preparedness and climate change adaptation capacities of beneficiary communities, FAO is also conducting training activities on drought management, improved crop production and resilience to climate-stress. This is expected to equip more than 100 DA and local government agricultural technicians and local farmer trainers to replicate the workshops in their respective villages.
“This is giving us the courage because even before a calamity strikes, we already have an idea how we should prepare,” said Jalani Pagital, a farmer from Datu Salibo town, also in Maguindanao.
In an earlier project that ended in June 2016, FAO also worked closely with DA and DAF-ARMM to provide similar assistance to 5,000 farming and fishing households in Maguindanao and North Cotabato province whose livelihoods were disrupted by a combination of natural and man-made disasters, including displacement due to armed conflict, drought and flooding.
Women were also trained in alternative livelihoods such as water hyacinth crafts production, as well as post-harvest and value-adding techniques that would help them supplement their families’ incomes to fast-track household-level disaster recovery.
“Because of the assistance we received and what we have learned from the training, hopefully someday there would no longer be poor farmers in our community,” Rahib added.
To date, FAO has assisted a total of 54 300 farming households in Luzon and Mindanao whose livelihoods were affected by drought and strong typhoons associated with El Niño. In addition to FAO internal funding of almost $1 million, the response was also made possible by the $1.6 million combined contributions of the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund, Belgium – through FAO’S Special Fund for Emergency and Rehabilitation Activities – and reprogramed savings from other FAO emergency response and resilience projects funded by the governments of Ireland, New Zealand and Norway.
Under an on-going $3 million-project funded by New Zealand, FAO is set to provide crop, livestock, poultry and fisheries production inputs to an additional 10,475 farming and fishing households in North Cotabato. Communities will also benefit from training in climate-smart practices, disaster preparedness, alternative livelihoods and product value-addition. The delivery of assistance will be phased until October 2017.