Jaro, Leyte, Philippines -- Irish Minister for Trade and Development Joe Costello visited an FAO rice seed project funded by the Irish Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and witnessed the positive impact of Ireland's financial support on the livelihoods of typhoon-affected farmers in Barangay Olotan, municipality of Jaro, Leyte.
Typhoon Haiyan (locally known as Yolanda) damaged 600 000 hectares of agricultural land and destroyed 1.1 million tonnes of crops as it swept across central Philippines on 8 November.
FAO and the Irish government partnered to address farmers' most time-critical need - to receive rice seed support in time for the December/January planting season. Through these efforts, nearly 12 300 families, almost 61 000 women, men and children, will yield over two tonnes of milled rice on average by April in Region VIII (the island of Leyte).
Results and value of Irish Aid funds
The Irish government's support to farmers has contributed to saving livelihoods, in particular those of rice farmers who could go back to their fields to meet the December/January planting season. In total, the rice seed distributed so far with Irish funds is expected to yield 25 000 tonnes of milled rice, enough to feed over 169 000 people for a year - providing real value for money for Irish taxpayers.
Beyond the immediate challenge of getting quality seed to farmers within weeks of the typhoon, the project also provided 930 kg of fertilizer to maximize yields and farming tools which will serve as lasting assets. Moreover, the rice that will soon be harvested between late March and April, will not only supply families with food and income but also provide seed for future planting.
'These seed and this aid have given affected farmers hope, not only assisting them in restoring their livelihoods, but also contributing to healing the emotional scars the typhoon left behind,' said acting FAO Representative Rajendra Aryal.
With green rice fields in the background, showcasing the resilience of farming communities, Jenny Almeira, Assistant Regional Director of the Philippines' Department of Agriculture, acknowledged the successful partnership between FAO and the Irish Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the effective collaboration between FAO and the Philippines government at all levels.
'Ireland is very fond of the Philippines. There are 17 000 Filipinos working in Ireland. We were therefore particularly anxious to help. Seeing the good work being done here, we will continue to work with FAO, our long-term standing partner. We also want to continue supporting sustainable development in the country in the years to come,' Minister Joe Costello said before handing out farming tools to farmer beneficiaries.
Addressing the root causes of vulnerability
'FAO's focus is to deliver a comprehensive livelihood support programme, leading to a rapid, sustainable recovery. It centres on resilience-building and ensuring affected communities build back better. Our support is very much demand-based,' Aryal emphasized.
With additional donor funding, FAO is preparing projects for the recovery phase to assist highly vulnerable coconut farming and fishing communities that suffered extensive losses to the typhoon.
Newly planted coconut trees require six to eight years to be fully productive again. FAO is setting up livelihood diversification programmes in consultation with coconut farming communities, focused on maximizing land-use through intercropping and livestock rearing activities. Support to coastal fishing communities will help families replace lost assets as well as deliver trainings in key areas, such as boat-building and safety-at-sea.