Subsistence farmers Jetha Tamang, 53, and his wife Kaili, 50, live in a village west of Kathmandu, where the first earthquake destroyed all but 15 of the 500 houses including theirs.
In the weeks after the earthquake, we had difficulty looking after our family, Jetha says. I could only produce enough food for the family to eat, and sometimes not even enough for that, so I had to find extra work.
But the family's fortunes have improved as they were among 65 000 households to receive a mixed packet of nine varieties of vegetable seeds, including some fastgrowing varieties that can be ready to eat in as little as a month. The seeds were supplied by FAO in cooperation and coordination with the Government of Nepal. Timing was critical as the seeds needed to be planted before the monsoon rains arrived. The FAO package also included feed supplements to improve the health and productivity of surviving livestock and grain storage bags to protect remaining seeds and grain.
As part of this programme, FAO also successfully reached and additional 40 000 households with larger five kilogramme bags of rice seeds in time for planting. Each bag produces several months of food.
Why earthquakes threaten food security
Landslides also added to the disaster killing animals in the fields and destroying animal shelters. One in six cows and more than one in three chickens were killed wiping out a lifetime of savings for some families.
Nepali farmers traditionally store their seeds and grains in their houses and about half of all households in the six worst affected districts lost virtually all of their stored rice, maize, wheat and millet. Sixty percent of households lost nearly all of their stored seeds.
Rice seeds were particularly important for remote communities struggling to replace the seeds they lost, because there was little or no market access following the earthquake, coupled with a rush on remaining local seed supplies. The looming monsoon also posed a crucial deadline. If the staple rice crop was not planted before the rain, farmers would be forced to wait a full year for the next harvest and be ever more reliant on food aid.
If recovery starts immediately there are tangible results
Farmers who received the feed supplements for livestock reported a significant increase in milk production sometimes up to double the regular milk supply. Within months, farmers were harvesting vegetables produced with the FAO seeds, to feed their families or sell in the markets.
Some crops such as offseason cauliflower, allowed farmers to earn up to four times the normal price. With the provision of new airtight grain storage bags, families are keeping their remaining food and seed stores safe from insects and other pests.
To create incomegenerating activities in the six key districts a number of initiatives were also launched to provide material and training to women's groups so they could build plastic tunnels for yearround vegetable production. This will enable the families to improve their nutrition and generate some additional income well into the future.
When disasters strike saving lives is the immediate priority but getting communities back on their feet and foodsecure without delay while strengthening their resilience to future crises is also critical.
Source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations