Comoros Islands: Farms destroyed by storms, farmers feel abandoned (by Ahmed Bacar for Farm Radio Weekly, Comoros Islands)

| May 28, 2012

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On April 20 this year, heavy rain pounded Fatima Hassane’s village of Vouvouni, three kilometres south of the capital Moroni. Each of the Comoros Islands, off the coast of Mozambique, was badly affected. In Vouvouni, dozens of fields were flooded. Farmers like Mrs. Hassane lost crops and livestock. She says, “Most of my farm was flooded; my fruit trees were badly damaged.” Mrs. Hassane also lost her three goats and cow.

Vouvouni was not the only village affected. Vouni Bambao, located five kilometres northeast of the capital, also suffered.  Farmer Mohamed Bahaoudine describes a similar scene of destruction. He says, “I had two fields. Both were devastated by flooding. I have nothing now.”

About 80% of the population of the Comoros Islands is involved in agriculture. Staple crops include cassava, bananas and coconut. With four main islands and a population of less than one million, the Comoros Islands is one of the poorest countries in the world.

Many houses were destroyed by the storm and several roads blocked.  A statement from the Ministry of Agriculture reported that over 46,000 people were affected.

While the Ministry could give no official estimate of damage, the rains caused widespread destruction of food crops such as bananas, cassava, maize and tarot. Some coconut and pine trees were damaged, as well as vanilla.  An official from the Ministry noted, “The projected losses in agricultural production are estimated at about 90%.” A great deal of farmland was damaged by landslides and mudslides.

Farm incomes will certainly drop, and result in food insecurity and increased poverty. In response, the government is appealing for help. International organizations and countries supportive of the Comoros Islands have responded positively. Essential goods such as food and medicines have been sent to aid disaster victims. The agricultural sector needs an estimated one billion Comorian francs (US $2.6 million) for rehabilitation.

For now, farmers accuse the authorities of not being interested in their fate. Ali Said is a farmer in Mitsoudjé, south of the capital and one of the villages worst affected by the storm. He says, “Until now, we have not received any help regarding agriculture and livestock.” Mohamed Bahaoudine concludes, “We feel abandoned by the authorities.”