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The lives and livelihoods of farmers and fishers in the three Southern African countries hit by Tropical Cyclone Idai are under severe threat, with communities in Mozambique bearing a particularly heavy burden, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)

112 afIn need of immediate assistance and protection are fishers, there is need to protect their assets and infrastructure. (Image source: Carsten ten Brink/Flickr)

Significant swathes of the cropland were flooded on the eve of the April-May maize and sorghum harvest. Most of the losses are expected in Mozambique's Manica and Sofala provinces, which normally contribute approximately 25 per cent of national cereal output.

Having declared the response to Cyclone Idai in Mozambique a top priority, FAO is asking for an initial US$19mn to support those most affected over the next three months, with a focus on resuming local food production, assisting fishing communities and supporting livestock owners.

Olman Serrano, FAO's representative in Mozambique and coordinator of the FAO’s response to the crisis, said, “Once we have established how and how much land can be rehabilitated, we will procure and distribute seeds as a matter of urgency so that farmers can plant for the secondary agricultural season, which is starting now, in April.”

Serrano noted that FAO and its partners will also be helping farmers to get ready for the main agricultural season in September, which will be critical in terms of food security for the following months and into next year. More immediately, however, saving the remaining livestock that many households rely on for food and income is one of the highest priorities.

Re-establishing people's access to markets, both to buy food and to sell crops, is another priority, one that would be suitable for FAO's Cash+ programmes, for example, by paying smallholder farmers via cash-for-work schemes to rebuild roads and other infrastructure.

A detailed grasp of the region's needs should become available once the floodwaters begin to recede and satellite imagery reveals more granular information regarding damage to irrigation wells, animal watering holes, farming infrastructure and soil health.

Deployed to Mozambique in the aftermath of the disaster, Daniele Donati, deputy director of FAO's emergency and resilience division, noted that climate change certainly contributes to understanding the extreme nature of the cyclone, as well as to the approach towards humanitarian relief.