International humanitarian agency Oxfam started distributing 400 tons of rice seeds in 6 rural municipalities south of Tacloban – MacArthur, Mayorga, Tanauan, Palo, Dulag, and Julita – Thursday, December 12.
The aid comes in time to assist local farmers struggling to plant rice before the next growing season starts. The seed distribution is the international agency’s next phase of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) relief efforts and will go on for a week.
Oxfam head of operations in Tacloban Peter Strujif said the operation is a “race against time” since the farmers only have until the end of December to plant the seeds.
“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 Strujif added.
Oxfam has also been helping local farmers by clearing fields and irrigation channels that were damaged by the typhoon.
The 400 tons of rice seeds are divided into 10,000 sacks weighing 40 kgs each. The allocation of the sacks will be proportionate to the size of each farmer’s plot of land (an average of one sack of seeds per hectare of land). A maximum of 2 sacks will be given to farmers with larger plots of land.
Each sack is composed of ‘climate-proof’ seeds purchased from Luzon and is expected to yield 80 sacks of rice during harvest. The seeds are tolerant to the changing weather paths suited to adapt to the region’s shorter and more unpredictable seasons.
By Sunday, December 15, Oxfam said water sluices will be opened to irrigated areas in time for this month’s planting season. Harvesting season regularly runs from March to April.
Logistics and LGUs
The timely distribution of the seeds is dependent on the condition of rural roads and bridges. Oxfam assures, however, that it is working closely with local mayors, municipal agriculture offices, and local village leaders to ensure that registered farmers receive the proper amount of seeds in the right time and place.
The distribution of rice seeds is being done in coordination with the Department of Agriculture (DA), the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), among other agencies.