Samar Island, Philippines -- Two months after Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines, Norway's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Børge Brende, lauded FAO for its work in helping rice farmers replace devastated crops with new seeds.
Brende visited farmers in Tingib village, Samar province, Eastern Visayas region in the central Philippines, the area most affected by the typhoon (known locally as Yolanda) last 8 November. The storm left more than 6,000 people dead and devastated the agriculture and fisheries sectors.
'Seed is a symbol of recovery,' said Brende, 'and I know how much it means to replant with this seed before it's too late.'
Brende spoke with farmers and personally handed over bags of seed, surveying rice fields where Norwegian-funded rice seed was already being planted, and thanking FAO for the work done so far.
FAO, with support from the Norwegian Government and in collaboration with the Government of the Philippines, has been able to secure the December/January planting season.
'We have supported almost 11,000 farmers so far with Norwegian funds, delivering a 40kg bag to each household, which has enabled them to plant in their rice fields that were devastated by the typhoon,' said Rajendra Aryal, acting FAO Country Representative in the Philippines.
'In the March/April period, each bag of rice seed will yield enough to feed a family of five for a year,' Aryal continued, 'and will give them vital access to income from the surplus.'
Missing the December/January planting season would have meant no harvest for affected rice farmers until October/November 2014, a long time to rely on food aid.
'It is important for us in Norway to show our solidarity with the typhoon-affected people of the Philippines. We were present just after the disaster struck and will follow the early recovery closely to ensure affected communities can build back better,' Brende said.
The visit was presided over by the Philippines' Department of Agriculture (DA), highlighting FAO's solid partnership with the Government.
'This support has been timely, enabling farmers to go back to their fields and produce their own food,' said Antonio Gerundio, the DA's Regional Executive Director for Eastern Visayas.
FAO responded to an official Government request for support and has, in total, reached around 44,000 farming households with rice seed. This will yield enough milled rice to feed more than 800,000 people for a year, at a market value of $ 84 million.
The needs in the agriculture and fisheries sector remain enormous and livelihood recovery support is urgently needed for coconut farmers, fisherfolk and small-scale farmers living in highland areas.