ROME, ITALY — The United Kingdom (U.K.) Department for International Development (DFID) is donating £10 million ($16.2 million) to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) humanitarian projects in Syria and Lebanon.
Part of the U.K.’s contribution will go towards boosting winter wheat and barley production in Syria, where more than 4 million people are food insecure.
Ongoing conflict has hit food production in the country. Many farmers had previously relied upon seeds and fertilizers provided by the government, but now good quality seeds are hard to find and seed prices are rising rapidly.
Recent estimates by FAO and the World Food Program suggest wheat production this year will fall to around 2.4 million tonnes, some 40% lower than pre-conflict levels. The situation is expected to worsen as the conflict continues.
FAO is targeting 25,000 farming households affected by the crisis in the main cereal production areas of the country. Households will receive wheat and barley seeds, distributed by local partners who are still able to reach farmers.
The U.K.’s assistance means that each of these households will receive the seeds needed to plant one hectare of land during the traditional sowing season, which runs from October to December.
The crops will be harvested next May and June and are expected to be sufficient to cover the families’ basic food needs for the following 12 months. Families will also be able to supplement household incomes by selling any surplus cereal in the market.
“Farmers have already suffered two bad harvests, affecting their food security and incomes,” said Eriko Hibi, the head of FAO’s operations in Syria. “This support for the 2013-2014 planting season will represent a crucial livelihood lifeline for these conflict-affected farm households and will help the process of agriculture sector recovery, vital for the country’s present and future food needs.”
The remainder of the U.K.’s contribution will go towards FAO’s animal vaccination support programs in neighboring Lebanon in areas bordering Syria, which have seen massive influxes of refugees fleeing the conflict.
Many refugees have arrived with unvaccinated sheep, goats and dairy cattle, and the risk of disease outbreak and infection as a result of the cross-border movement of animals is high.
Livestock are one of the mainstays of the rural economy in Lebanon, and the uncontrolled spread of disease could cripple the country’s agricultural sector. The vaccination support programme will help reduce the risks of this happening.
In January 2013 the country reported its first ever outbreak of Lumpy Skin Disease in cattle, and the virus has since spread throughout the entire border area. The insect-borne disease, which gets its name from the painful swellings it causes on the animals’ skin, kills 20-30 percent of infected cattle.
The growing risk of brucellosis and rabies, both of which can be transmitted to humans, is also causing concern, as well as foot-and-mouth disease, sheep and goat pox, and peste des petits ruminants.
All of these diseases can harm or kill livestock, affecting incomes, livelihoods and trade, reducing available food supplies and leading to negative consequences for nutrition and public health.
FAO will work with Lebanon’s Ministry of Agriculture to scale up its existing vaccination program to protect 58,000 cattle, 277,000 sheep and 424,000 goats.
The project will also provide 2,300 of the most vulnerable farmers with animal feed in response to high feed prices and strong competition for pasture.
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