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Farming in delta remains underfunded

Dec 3, 2009 (DVB), Urgent agricultural aid is still needed in Burma's cyclone-stricken Irrawaddy delta, with farmers complaining that government funding for the sector is far from adequate.

Damage inflicted on the environment by the cyclone last May is yet to recover, and locals in Bogalay and Laputta townships, two of the worst-hit by the cyclone, are feeling the effects of a drop in agricultural production.

One farmer said that the government's agricultural loan programme, which provides a loan of 8000 kyat ($US8) for one acre of farm, is inadequate.

"There are a lot of employees at the [government's] agricultural bank. If the government provides them travel expenses to come to the region and hand the loan to the farmers, then that will save a lot of time and money," he said.

"8000 kyat for one acre is nowhere near enough. The expenses for one acre of farmland costs 70,000 to 80,000 kyat ($US70 to $US80). If we can get loan of about 50,000 kyat ($US50) for one acre, then it should be okay," said the farmer.

According to the Post-Nargis Recovery and Preparedness Plan, around 783,000 hectares of farmland were destroyed by the cyclone. Nearly 60 percent of families in the delta region are dependent on farming as their primary source of income.

Meanwhile, cyclone refugees living in a model village, Polaungyi, in the Irrawaddy delta are reportedly struggling to subsist, and have asked to return to their original locations.

Around 50 percent of the village inhabitants are from other villages devastated by the cyclone, which killed around 140,000 people and left 2.4 million homeless.

Their situation is compounded by the halt in international aid reaching the area and tight restrictions set by the government which prohibits them from returning home.

The United Nations announced last month that there were still 178,000 people without proper shelter. Many are still living under tarpaulin roofs that were distributed shortly after the cyclone hit last May, with rescue efforts hampered by a government ban on foreign relief workers entering the affected areas.

Reporting by Nan Kham Kaew


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