Flood Relief Changes From Food to Seeds

As the waters recede across Cambodia after weeks of flooding, relief distributions are shifting from edible rice to rice seed.

In the past three weeks, four non-governmental organizations have distributed approximately 1.4 million tons of rice seed to hard-hit areas in Kandal, Kom­pong Cham, Kompong Thom, Prey Veng and Pursat provinces, Neil Hawkins of CARE Interna­tional said.

The seed is the fast-growing IR-66 variety, which matures in 100 to 105 days, he said.

Paid for by a donation of $400,000 from the US Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, the seed was distributed by CARE, World Vision, Concern World­wide and Partners for Develop­ment. Hawkins said the agencies coordinated their distributions with the World Food Program, which handed out rice to eat. “We didn’t want people eating the seed rice,” he said.

Local officials worked with the NGOs in deciding when and were to distribute the seeds. Haw­kins said the IR-66, which needs a lot of moisture to grow, was directed to areas with sufficient irrigation or where floodwaters had only recently receded.

Villagers in some areas have complained that government aid does not always get to those who need it, but goes instead to those with the right political connections. Hawkins said the NGOs took steps to prevent that.

“We try to see that the food and the seed get to the right people,” he said. The agencies schedule follow-up visits “to see that those who should get it, did.”

CARE distributed rice seed to 5,000 farming families in Prey Veng province, enough to plant 1 hectare per family.

Hawkins said that the nationwide distribution should take care of all but the most marginal families, those with land so poor that it can’t support a second crop.

A second aid program, funded by the European Union, will allow local officials to help those missed in the first distribution or to fix damaged structures and clean wells.

Hawkins said overall, the Cam­bodian response to the flooding has been impressive. “They know what they’re doing. They’ve been living with floods for years,” he said. “People can pat themselves on the back.”





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