As aid begins to reach communities across Vanuatu, Oxfam New Zealand have spoken to their development partner Farm Support Association (FSA) to understand the longer term impact Cyclone Pam will have on a society which lives mostly off farming. We heard that the cyclone has come at a very bad time; farmers who had planted vegetables would have lost all their crops.
As aid begins to reach communities across Vanuatu, Oxfam New Zealand have spoken to their development partner Farm Support Association (FSA) to understand the longer term impact Cyclone Pam will have on a society which lives mostly off farming.
Oliver Lato, Senior Extension Officer from FSA was at home in Port Vila when the Cyclone struck. “For me, it was my first time experiencing a cyclone this strong. I was at home. I thought it would take off the roof. There was lots of water overflowing from the creek. Water came into my house, half a meter deep”.
Mr Lato said “Lots of vegetation is destroyed. Root crops are people’s main food. If yam, cassava and taro haven’t been destroyed, they need to be quickly harvested before they rot from flooding. They will need to be eaten quickly, within a week or so they will be spoilt”
“Food is short. The cyclone has come at a very bad time; farmers who had planted vegetables would have lost all their crops. If they kept local seeds, they should start planting things like corn, pumpkin and choko now for food security in two months’ time. There may be a food gap. Starting from now, there may be a gap of two to three months before vegetables can be harvested again. Root crops will be worse as they take seven to nine months before harvesting”.
“This is why we are working very hard to get some food like rice, tinned fish, biscuits and flour out, so that farmers can have it to last for the next 3-4 months whilst waiting for their crops to recover” he said.
Part of Mr Lato’s role is to educate farmers on what they need to do next. “ I just came from the radio station where I was giving the key message that if farmers have planting material, they have to automatically plant now. It’s what farmers should do after a cyclone hits. People are waiting for outside assistance. We have to encourage them, people are in shock and we are encouraging people over the radio of what they have to do to get back to normal life.”
Oxfam New Zealand are working in partnership with FSA to help farmers get their lives back up and running, but need your help to do so.
Rachael Le Mesurier, Oxfam’s Executive Director said “there are lots of ways people can help; by donating online, or by calling us. Or by going into any ANZ branch, Body Shop, or Countdown this weekend where donations can be made at check out. We would also ask people to think about what they could do in their school or workplace next week, perhaps like St Kentigern Boys’ School in Remuera they could hold a MUFTI day, or cake sale”.
Countdown’s Acting Managing Director, Steve Donohue, says: “Our 174 Countdown stores nationwide will be assisting with this fundraising effort. We want to do what we can to help our Pacific neighbours get back on their feet following this terrible disaster.”