Colombia: Harvest after the floods

27 February, 2012
Farmers  in Recula, Colombia, learn to plant new crops and diversify food sources through CERF-supported FAO project. Credit: CERF
Farmers in Recula, Colombia, learn to plant new crops and diversify food sources through CERF-supported FAO project. Credit: CERF

On the road to the small town of Recula, in Colombia’s Córdoba region, a cow forages for food in fields that have become lakes. More than 210,000 people in the region have been affected by some of the worst flooding in Colombia’s history.

Across the country, more than 2 million people were affected by weather-related events in 2011. In Córdoba, major rivers that cut across the farmland overflowed, destroying hundreds of homes and leaving thousands of families in some areas with next to nothing.

Agriculture is the main livelihood for approximately 70 per cent of the flood-affected population. The damage to an estimated 70,000 hectares of agricultural land, which used to harvest crops such as rice, maize and cassava, rendered many people extremely vulnerable and in need of food. Restoring the community’s capacity to provide for itself and prepare for the next planting season became critical.

In response, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), with support from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), is helping farmers in the area grow a variety of crops and diversify their food sources. Farmers are growing vegetables such as eggplants, tomatoes and cucumbers. These crops have become new sources of food that people can eat as well as sell.

“Before the FAO project we had no future, we saw no way to get ahead. We had no resources to start over, to eat,” says Damaris, a project leader. “The most important thing for us is to know that we can help ourselves find food and become self-reliant.” 

According to FAO, about 70 per cent of families included in the initiative will be able to recover their small plots of land and meet their basic food requirements in the future.

“CERF has also helped us mobilize resources from other donors to improve our capacity to respond in the country,” says Malachy Dottin, FAO Representative in Colombia. “The CERF-funded project has not just brought material well-being to these families, but also psychological relief and a sense of self-reliance.”
 
CERF provided US$5.9 million to UN agencies in Colombia in 2011. FAO received more than $962,000 to ensure food security and provide emergency support to people affected by natural disasters and conflict.

As local farmers gather to collect their fresh harvest, Maria, a longtime resident of Recula, says: “In the midst of this crisis, despite everything, our little plants are growing and soon we’ll have cucumbers and tomatoes. This is a joy that you can’t even begin to imagine.”

Reporting by Julián Arango/ CERF

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