The World Bank is providing electronic vouchers to Samoan farmers affected by Cyclone Evan that struck the country last year.
The Bank will spend $US5 million in vouchers to be handed out to about 7,000 cyclone-affected subsistence farmers and fishers.
The lead agriculture economist at the World Bank Mona Sur told Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat program that these vouchers will help farmers get back on their feet.
“The farmers will be issued with an electronic voucher which can actually be redeemed at some designated suppliers in the country,” she said.
“These vouchers enable farmers to purchase various inputs and farm and fishing equipment.
“The vouchers give the farmers a certain amount of flexibility in deciding what they will buy and what really to meet their specific needs.”
Ms Sur manages the Agriculture and Fisheries Cyclone Response Project which is working to repair damages caused by Evan.
The Bank will also spend another $20 million to help Samoa to repair damaged roads and to make it more resilient to extreme weather events.
Agriculture sector hit badly
Ms Sur says the agricultural sector was very hard hit in Samoa, impacting the livelihoods for thousands of subsistence farmers and fishers.
“There was a lot of damage from high winds… to subsistence food crops, including bananas, coconuts and bread fruit,” she said.
“But the agriculture sector also sustained extensive damages in terms of damage to infrastructure and farms.”
She says that the damage bill to Samoa’s agricultural sector after last year’s Cyclone Evan was $33 million or about 30 per cent of the country’s agricultural GDP.
“Farmers also lost livestock, cattle and subsistence fishermen were very susceptible in terms of having their boats damaged and losing a lot of fishing gear,” Ms Sur said.
“So the impact across the agriculture sector is quite widespread and in the case of Samoa, the costs of that damage were fairly significant.”
Preparing for better response
The World Bank is trying to enhance the preparedness of Samoa’s agricultural sector to better respond to future disasters.
“(We are) encouraging farmers to diversify their production base so they have a variety of crops and can better recover,” Ms Sur said.
“The cyclones are inevitable, there will be damage but we need to equip farmers and fishers with adequate tools so that they can recover faster and reduce their losses.”
Ms Sur says the impact of the natural disaster can last for up to a year or longer, especially if there are a lot of damage to tree crops.
“It takes several years to regain that lost capacity,” she said.
“But for other crops such as vegetable crops, farmers can replant fairly soon after the cyclone and get another harvest perhaps in as little as three to four months.”
Fishermen who have lost their boats and fishing gear could experience a fairly adverse impact on their household unless they have resources to replace those assets quickly.
The World Bank says setting up an electronic system in the country helps in faster disaster response.
“Once an electronic system is set up, these systems that are affected are once again re-established within a week or two,” she said.
“So having these systems in place will enable assistance to be provided to farmers and fishers in a more timely basis in the future.”
Earlier this week, the Red Cross also said access to technology is as important as food and water when it comes to saving lives during disasters.
The World Bank says it recognises that agriculture is extremely important in the Pacific.
“Most of the countries in the region have a large rural population base and (that) base is largely reliant on agriculture for employment and income,” Ms Sur said.
“It has been a large part of our portfolio in the Pacific and since the agricultural sector was hard hit in Samoa, it’s an area we chose to focus on.”
Tropical Cyclone Evan hit Samoa in December 2012, killing at least five people and displacing thousands.