Maguindanao – Agriculture-dependent families in Maguindanao are still reeling from the residual impact of conflict, drought and flooding that affected the province in succession during the first half of 2015. In order to meet the first cropping season of the year, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has launched emergency response efforts that will enable farmers to seize the small window of opportunity to re-plant their farms, and avoid at least eight more months without sufficient food and income.
“We were in an evacuation centre for about three months. This [displacement] had a huge effect on us farmers. We had to leave our farms and backyard gardens. Our crops were destroyed by drought. We were not able to sell most of our livestock as they died either of hunger or disease,” recalled Tuka Sumalay, a farmer from Tapikan, Shariff Aguak.
Tuka is one of more than 125 000 people uprooted across the 15 municipalities of Maguindanao when hostilities broke out between the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the Government in February. Re-establishing a sense of normalcy has been a challenge for the majority who rely on farming as their primary source of livelihood. Farmers had no choice but to abandon their ready-to-harvest crops as they fled to safer grounds. Upon returning to their homes, they not only lost their productive farm assets such as tools, small machinery and animals, but they were also confronted by a dry spell, followed by flooding caused by torrential rains and overflowing rivers and tributaries.
To support the Government in responding to farmers’ most time-critical needs for agriculture inputs, FAO allocated USD 470 000 to help 5 000 farming households or 25 000 individuals in Maguindanao and North Cotabato provinces resume the production of rice, corn and vegetables.
Through the project, FAO will distribute a total of 1 410 sacks of rice seeds, 3 590 sacks of corn seeds, as well as vegetable seeds, fertilizer and hand tools. FAO will also conduct workshops and training activities.
FAO is also working with other development partners and Government agencies to help restore the livelihoods of an additional 10 000 farmers and fisherfolk affected by armed encounters in other parts of central and western Mindanao. These efforts are part of the Organization’s larger goal of strengthening the agriculture sector and food security in the Philippines. pr