Post-conflict reconstruction: seeds of hope help rebuild peace
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CTA. 2005. Post-conflict reconstruction: seeds of hope help rebuild peace. Spore 120. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
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Poverty and inequality are major causes of tension and it is no coincidence that the majority of today s armed conflicts have countries of the South as their backdrop. But war also perpetuates poverty and hunger. ..
Poverty and inequality are major causes of tension and it is no coincidence that the majority of today s armed conflicts have countries of the South as their backdrop. But war also perpetuates poverty and hunger. Restoring and developing agriculture is a critical step towards lasting peace, provided it is part of a wider societal framework. Farmer Miriam Kabugo prefers not to dwell on the 3 years she spent in internal displaced camps when she fled from the insurgency in Uganda s Bundibugyo area. But coming home was almost harder. When we came back our houses were destroyed and the iron sheets were stolen from the roofs, she recalls. With help from a project involving the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), Kabugo has been able to plant fruit trees and vanilla and start producing an income again. In Rwanda, widow Therese Rwaramubuniye has also returned to her village after years as a refugee. She was made destitute by the 1994-1996 conflict and the future looked bleak, but she is now raising goats with help from a project funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). A similar scheme has helped repatriated Rwandan refugee Alfonse Rubayita to rebuild his shattered life. He was given five rabbits to get started, and has since sold 50. Like millions of other victims of fighting in ACP countries, Therese, Miriam and Alfonse escaped with their lives, but lost just about everything else. For poverty and food insecurity are the inevitable consequences of war, whose legacies invariably include refugee and food crises. Armed conflicts are now the leading cause of world hunger, according to a recent FAO report. Today s average conflict lasts about eight years twice as long as conflicts before 1980 and many more people are killed by hunger and disease than by fighting. Human lives aside, agriculture is one of the main casualties of war. Fighting forces farmers to flee the land, while bombs and landmines make it dangerous to tend crops or animals. Crops and livestock may be looted or destroyed, and vital services such as roads, transport, water, agricultural supplies and veterinary care are disrupted. Agricultural scientists are often killed or exiled precious genetic heritages lost as crops are burned and seed banks and agricultural research stations destroyed. In times of war, large numbers of people flee to the cities. Counting the cost of war Such migrations create a host of social and humanitarian problems, but they also rob younger generations of training in agricultural practices. Women are often the innocent victims of war and civil strife, left to run households and produce food in conditions of acute poverty and insecurity. Mass rape by soldiers leaves many women with HIV/AIDS, which, quite apart from the tragic human cost, has a serious impact on agriculture. Conflict and refugee crises take a heavy toll on the environment, causing deforestation, erosion, loss of wildlife and water pollution. Basic survival needs such as shelter, food and water are priorities in the immediate aftermath of war. But if recovery, and the peace which depends on it, is to prove durable, lasting solutions are needed to rebuild rural life and get farmers back in the fields. Restoring agriculture is usually the first step in creating economic growth and laying the foundations for durable peace, said Ian Johnson, chairman of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), which is spearheading work to preserve local crop varieties in trouble spots around the globe. Many of the crop varieties being saved have unique attributes such as inbuilt resistance to drought or salinity. The approach, dubbed smart aid, stands in marked contrast to the times when aid agencies shipped large quantities of seed from abroad, much of it poorly adapted to local conditions. In Côte d Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Liberia, Mozambique, Rwanda and Sierra Leone, a programme launched by the Africa Rice Center restores seeds of lost varieties of rice which were looted or burned during fighting. Delivering smart aid CTA launched a series of information needs assessment studies in six African post-conflict countries Angola, Eritrea, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, Rwanda and Sierra Leone in order to target help in the area of information and communication management as effectively as possible. In DRC, where more than 20 years of civil war and political turmoil drastically hit cassava yields, farmers are being helped to kick start production again. The war aggravated the virulent cassava mosaic disease, causing total crop failure in many areas, but batches of virus-free, resistant seedlings developed at the Nigeria-based International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) are now being distributed to farmers in remote parts of the country. As part of the initiative, thousands of farmers receive training in improved production practices, plant health protection and rapid multiplication techniques. IITA has supplied cassava processing machines to rural women s groups, some of which have set up small-scale commercial production of unfermented flour for bread, cakes and meat pies. Even when countries do manage to resolve conflicts, peace is not always lasting. Almost half of all newly peaceful countries revert to war within 5 years, a figure which speaks volumes about the need to find long-term solutions. Some of the most successful post-conflict initiatives deliver sustainable help such as seeds, tools and fertiliser, to enable farmers to re-establish crop production quickly. Restocking with animals helps herders produce milk, cheese and hides. Other valuable contributions include restoring veterinary services, ensuring supplies of drinking water, clearing landmines, managing the environment and supplying credit for small businesses. In Eritrea, FAO has rehabilitated 12 veterinary clinics inside the temporary security zone created on the border with Ethiopia in the wake of the 1998-2000 conflict. In 1998, ethnic conflict erupted in the Solomon Islands. Since peace has been restored, the World Fish Center has been helping islanders find more remunerative livelihoods to reduce the poverty that was fuelling frustration and anger. The scheme involves teaching environmentally-friendly ways of cultivating high-quality black pearls, giant clams, ornamental crustaceans, coral, sea cucumbers and fish. In Mozambique, landmines are being replaced with trees to combat deforestation and provide incomes for rural people. Scene of one of the longest running conflicts in recent history, Mozambique has proved one of the most successful cases of agricultural recovery. The process began well before the war actually ended, with farmersencouraged to grow vegetables and other crops to feed refugee populations fleeing to the cities. Once the fighting is over, returning soldiers, as well as refugees, need to be reintegrated into mainstream society. An ICRAFtree domestication programme helps to provide a livelihood for refugees and ex-soldiers in DRC. Other ways in which long-term help can be delivered include ensuring property rights through land titling, and providing assistance to resolve disputes about precious reserves such as water, land and forests. Increasingly, traditional confrontations between major world powers for motives of ideology are being replaced by armed struggles with prosperity, natural resources and environmental issues at their core. In 1995 alone, disputes over water triggered 14 international conflicts. Fighting to rebuild peace Development agencies and NGOs are helping Sudan to get back on its feet. The scale of loss and devastation is staggering. But the agricultural potential is immense. More than 95% of the land is suitable for farming. A joint initiative by the Catholic Relief Services and the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute is helping some farmers in the south by supplying them with sesame seeds to grow as a cash crop. In Darfur, FAO has distributed field crop seeds, tools and donkey ploughs to conflict-affected households, in an effort to enable them to stay in rural areas and become self-sufficient as quickly as possible. Said Sara McHattie, North Darfur Area Emergency Coordinator, For one tenth of what is spent on food aid for a month, enough seeds can be purchased to help the same number of people produce their own food. Graphics: Intactile DESIGN from photo: A Proto © FAO/23329M Photographic credit: Linton © FAO/23963, G Diana ©FAO/17639
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