The impact of the recent major earthquake on food security and agricultural livelihoods is expected to be very high.
Farmers who miss the planting season that is expected to start in late May onwards will be unable to harvest rice — the country’s staple food — until late 2016. This, together with likely losses of food stocks and wheat and maize harvests, would severely limit food supplies and incomes in the South Asian country, where around two-thirds of people rely on agriculture for their livelihood, FAO said.
Last week, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake — the country’s biggest in 80 years — shook Nepal, killing thousands while limiting access to food and leaving some 3.5 million in need of food assistance.
Millions of people across the country’s Western and Central Regions are affected by the disaster, including its largest cities, Kathmandu and Pokhara.
But some of the country’s most vulnerable agricultural areas, particularly the villages in mountain and hilly regions, also bore the brunt.
Although damage to the agriculture sector has not yet been assessed, affected families have likely lost livestock, crops, food stocks and valuable agricultural inputs. At the same time, the disaster has destroyed markets and infrastructure, including roads and crucial irrigation and drainage canals. As a result, internal trade, including the movement of emergency assistance, is severely constrained.
Before the earthquake hit, FAO estimated Nepal’s wheat production in 2015 at 1.8 million tonnes – some 5% below last year’s record harvest. But crop damage and farmer’s inability to harvest in earthquake-affected areas are likely to change this forecast. In addition, disruption of planting operations for rice and maize may severely reduce the planted area for these crops in the most affected areas.
In addition to distributing crop-production packages to secure this year’s harvest, FAO and partners will support the Nepalese government in preventing further loss of livestock by providing animal feed and veterinary supplies that will ensure animals stay healthy and productive for families relying on them for food and income.
In all, FAO will support 20,000 of the most vulnerable farming households in rebuilding their livelihoods. Timely agricultural interventions are essential to increase the resilience of affected farming families and greatly reduce the time and cost of recovery.
“There is a critical window of opportunity to help crop producers plant in time to have a rice harvest this year and regain their self-sufficiency,” said Somsak Pipoppinyo, FAO representative in Nepal. “At the same time, we need to do all we can to preserve vital livestock assets which provide affected families with much needed income and nutrition.”
UN agencies and partners launched a $415 million emergency appeal for Nepal to address the most urgent needs. FAO’s appeal is part of a larger $128-million request under the Food Security Cluster, led by FAO and the World Food Program. In addition to emergency agriculture support, the cluster aims to distribute 50,000 tonnes of food to families in need, along with setting up cash-transfer programs and helping communities rebuild.