Ukraine: FAO scales up to support rural families, safeguard food security

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11 March 2022, Rome: The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is rapidly scaling up its efforts to respond to urgent food security needs resulting from the unfolding war in Ukraine, focusing initially on livelihood-saving interventions for the most vulnerable smallholder farmers.  

FAO has a team of 81 experts in Ukraine – 76 national and 5 international members. Most have been redeployed to the west of the country, as part of UN coordination. Declaration of FAO corporate scale-up emergency procedures implies activation of fast track management procedures, and upscaling of the chain of command with appointment of a senior designate responsible official supported by an Emergency response manager, and a very experienced surge support team from FAO’s headquarters in Rome, moving into the country to join the team. FAO as leader together with WFP of the Humanitarian Food Security Cluster in Ukraine regrouping more than 40 organizations is now engaged with partners from the Ministry of Agriculture in an assessment of the impact of the war on the sector and resulting needs.

FAO is pivoting its ongoing programmes to emergency response, continuing its longstanding commitment to the people of Ukraine, while ensuring safety of its staff. Mara Lopes, FAO Ukraine Emergency Response Manager, said the team is highly motivated, with colleagues keen to take on the new assignments to respond quickly to meet the needs of vulnerable farming families in rural areas.

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“We are working 24/7 to scale up. We are fully committed to staying and delivering for everyone affected and particularly the farmers and people deriving their livelihood from food and agriculture,” she said.

The conflict is not only affecting food security in the country, but also forcing massive displacement, with likely serious impacts to food production and agriculture-based livelihoods, a key source of income in rural areas of Ukraine.

$50 million needed over the next three months

FAO has just made an urgent request for immediate initial obviously minimal funding of $50 million to assist up to 240 000 most vulnerable rural men and women in the next three months and address the most pressing and urgent needs of rural communities. All told, the Food Security and Livelihoods Cluster, co-led by FAO, has appealed for $183.5 million to provide food aid and agricultural livelihoods support as part of the larger United Nations flash appeal.

The funds aim to support smallholder farmers in the country to plant their fields, harvest their crop, save their livestock and keep producing food. Multi-purpose cash assistance will be provided to address urgent needs, and where needed and possible, combined with the provision of seeds, tools, and other agricultural inputs.

About 30 percent (12.6 million people) of Ukraine’s population lives in rural areas (as of January 2021). Agriculture is key to Ukraine’s economy and livelihoods of rural communities, accounting for 9 percent of GDP.

Upcoming planting season

The coming weeks will be critical as farmers will need to prepare land for sowing vegetables in the middle of March. Likewise, between February and May, farmers need to start preparing land for planting wheat, barley, maize and sunflower.  All efforts should be made to protect harvests and livestock.

Population displacement, damage to agricultural infrastructure, lack of affordable agricultural inputs, and disruption to markets and food supply chains are likely to impact food security in both the short and longer term.

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