A desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is deteriorating in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing life-saving support but help is urgently needed to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe.
International agency Oxfam will start distributing 400 tons of rice seeds in six rural municipalities south of Tacloban today (Thursday 12 December) to help farmers win their 'race against time' to avoid missing the next growing season. The distributions will last for a week.
Farmers have a very short time to plant the seeds to catch this year’s second growing season. Water sluices will be opened on Sunday 15 December to those areas irrigated. Oxfam has been supporting farmers to clear fields and irrigation channels that have been affected by typhoon Haiyan in preparation for the planting of the seeds.
The so-called ‘climate-proof’ variety seeds were purchased in Luzon island and are suitable for the low lying area and not dependent upon large amounts of artificial fertilizer or pesticides.
The consignment of rice seed is made up of 10,000 40kgs sacks. Each farmer will receive a quantity of rice appropriate to the size of their plot. On average there will be an allocation of one sack of seed per hectare of land, with a maximum of two sacks of seeds for those farmers with large plots. For each sack of rice seed planted farmers can be expected to grow approximately 80 sacks of rice for harvesting.
Close coordination needed
Distributing this amount of seed will not be straightforward in the time available due to the state of rural roads and bridges. Oxfam has been working closely with local mayors’ offices, the municipal agriculture offices and leaders of local villages to ensure farmers are registered to receive the seed and know how much they will receive and where and when distribution will take place. The Oxfam distribution is being coordinated with the Department of Agriculture, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization and other agencies.
“This is a race against time. Farmers have only until the end of the month to plant the seeds to catch this year’s planting season. If we do not get the seeds to them soon enough then they will miss the chance of getting a harvest in the first quarter of next year,” said Peter Struijf head of Oxfam’s operations in Tacloban.
Notes to editors
Oxfam will be able to provide photos, and will also be filming a distribution on Friday, 13 December.
Oxfam has started a cash for work program in the Philippines, in a bid to speed up the country's recovery from Typhoon Haiyan. It is offering payment to anyone willing to help clear rice fields for planting. Watch the BBC footage: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-25299670
For more information contact: Ian Bray +63 916 674 9742, +63 919 509 8134 or +44 7721 461339