FAO aids El Niño-affected Isabela rice, corn farmers

THE Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) said it distributed cash to rice and corn farmers in Isabela that have been affected by El Niño.

“With El Niño forecast to persist until late May with its effects to be felt until August, it is important to act early to reduce the risks posed to the country’s food security,” FAO Country Representative to the Philippines Lionel Henri Valentin Dabbadie said in a statement Monday.

The FAO said about 964 rice and corn farming households in the province were given a one-time distribution of multipurpose cash.

“Beneficiaries used the funds to buy food, cover school-related expenses and even pay debts.  Others used the funds to engage in vegetable trading as drought conditions peaked in the province,” the FAO said.

The fund distribution under its Anticipatory Action program is designed to act ahead of predicted hazards to prevent or reduce acute humanitarian impacts before they fully unfold.

Agricultural damage due to El Niño has been estimated at P9.5 billion, with rice and corn the most affected crops, according to the Department of Agriculture (DA).

“Anticipatory actions against drought, linked with shock-responsive social protection, can help build resilience in the agriculture sector,” Mr. Dabbadie added.

“This is of urgent concern because globally, more severe and frequent disasters are producing unprecedented levels of damage and loss in the sector, and the Philippines is among the countries most vulnerable to climate and human-induced hazards,” he said. — Adrian H. Halili