ROME, ITALY — As a delicate peace takes hold in Côte d’Ivoire following months of severe political violence, the race is on to save the upcoming rice and maize planting season that begins with the first rains starting just about now in the west and north of the country, said the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Association (FAO) on April 18.

FAO is responding by procuring seeds, tools and fertilizer kits for around 12,000 farming households in both Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia. Distributions will take place in the coming days in villages that are host to refugees and internally displaced.

An estimated one million people have been displaced inside the Côte d’Ivoire and up to 150,000 people have fled into Liberia, putting a huge strain on the already meager resources of host villages.

FAO hopes by doing this to provide mutual assistance to both host and guest families to prevent future tensions and further hardships.

“Food to cover the lean season until the next harvest has not been stockpiled as it usually is and there will not be enough,” said Luc Genot, FAO emergency coordinator in the Côte d’Ivoire. “In addition, pressure is being put on household food supplies by increasing numbers of displaced people from the conflict in rural areas. Unless these people are helped to plant now, they are going to need food assistance for many months to come.”

The threat to the rainy season follows the loss of much of the last harvest, which ended in January. Farming families either had no time to harvest or they sold their crops at rock bottom prices before leaving, so that they would have some cash to travel with.

Violence, fuel shortages and road blocks have restricted inputs from circulating in country causing seed and fertilizer shortages.

The recent troubles in Côte d’Ivoire follow 10 years of political difficulties that had already taken a toll on the population and on food security in what should be one of the strongest agricultural economies in West Africa.

FAO interventions to shore up this planting season have so far been funded by the UN Central Emergency Response Fund and its own resources.

FAO has asked for an initial $4.25 million from the international community as part of the United Nations appeal for agriculture in the Côte d’Ivoire and $6 million for Liberia.

The funds are urgently required for the agency to continue its operations on both sides of the border.