Upcoming delta farming season 'is critical'

May 1, 2009 (DVB), Post-cyclone aid should focus on assisting villagers and farmers to rehabilitate land, said an international aid organization yesterday after voicing concern about the fragile health of this year's farming season.

Last May's cyclone Nargis damaged a reported two million acres of rice paddies, interfering with the agricultural cycle in the Irrawaddy delta, said World Vision.

"Much still needs to be accomplished to restore livelihoods," said World Vision, who currently aid and assist nearly 350,000 survivors of the cyclone.

"The upcoming farming season is critical for the country’s continued recovery."

Bankrupt farmers in the area are still in recovery due to the resulting debt caused by damage to the agriculture sector. Many will be forced to sell what little rice they have at low prices.

The recovery period in the country’s main food-producing region has been dragged out further than expected, because of the severity of the destruction.

"Farmers are preparing seeds, fertilizers, and readying their fields for what is hoped to be a harvest that lends itself to ample food surplus," said Mia Marina, cyclone Nargis support manager at World Vision.

In other news, the United Nations World Food Programme has been working to convert stretches of land in western Burma's Arakan state into paddy fields. Saline levels in about 1,000 acres of land in Sara Auk village, Maungdaw township, are too high to grow crops.

WFP efforts, which began in 20 April, also include the construction of a dam surrounding the land to prevent more saline water from coming in.

Reporting by Beth Macdonald

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