Actually Aided Crops in Indonesia
CHRIS BRUMMITT, Associated Press Writer
Sep 25,12:41 PM ET
Indonesia - From atop the coconut tree where he fled to escape the
onrushing water, Muhammad Yacob watched the tsunami turn his rice
paddy into a briny, debris-strewn swamp.
months later, Yacob and his wife are harvesting their best-ever
crop ó despite fears that salt water had poisoned the land.
sea water turned out to be a great fertilizer," said Yacob,
66, during a break from scything the green shoots and laying them
in bunches on the stubble. "We are looking at yields twice as
high as last year."
the region's staple food, is not the only crop thriving on
tsunami-affected land in Indonesia's Aceh province, which suffered
the worst damage and loss of life in the Dec. 26 disaster.
say vegetables, peanuts and fruit are also growing well, spurring
hopes that agriculture in the still devastated region will recover
faster than expected.
bumper harvests for some mask a very precarious future for most
farmers in areas where a massive offshore earthquake caused the
sea to crash ashore, experts say.
to U.N. surveys, 81 percent of the 116,000 acres of agricultural
land damaged by tsunami waves in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Maldives,
India and Thailand is again cultivable.
experts say much fertile land remains under water or sand churned
up from the ocean floor. Waves and mud have destroyed or clogged
countless drainage systems. So many villagers died that there is a
shortage of labor to clear the land and replant.
says he has received no tsunami aid from the government, and sighs
as he points to a mangled threshing machine, rusting where it was
tossed by the tsunami waves.
his rice crop, the father of eight lost 1,000 cocoa plants in the
tsunami, and has no money for seedlings.
in the worst hit areas may take three to five years, said Bart
Dominicus of the U.N. tsunami response program.
largest earthquake in 40 years sent 60-foot waves crashing into
coastal communities in Aceh and more than five miles inland. Of
the 178,000 who died in the 11 tsunami-hit countries on the Indian
Ocean rim, 130,000 victims were in Aceh province.
50,000 acres of Aceh farmland were damaged, the local government
the weeks after, many scientists warned it would take years until
crops could be planted, noting that fields flooded with salt water
usually become unsuitable for most types of cultivation.
I first got here there were preliminary figures booted about that
half of the land would be lost," said Helen Bradbury, an
agriculturalist with Mercy Corps, a U.S.-based charity. "But
I wasn't so sure and neither were the farmers."
at least some cases, their hunch proved correct.
of lush, green rice now dot the coast, and surveys by the U.N.
agency paint a more optimistic picture.
say high rainfall in most Indian Ocean countries washed out the
salt quicker than expected. Higher yields in some plots are
explained by rich topsoil and the composting effect of other
organic matter dumped by the tsunami.
am not sure the effect will last long, but for now it is a sort of
tsunami bonus," said Bradbury.
rice harvest is helping to restore some of the pre-tsunami rhythms
of life to the countryside, where men like Yacob have farmed for
30 years and more. But it is still littered with damaged buildings
and tent camps housing tens of thousands of survivors.
and women wearing wide-brimmed hats stand knee-deep in mud during
long days of planting and harvesting. Villagers cycle to the
fields and smoke from burning stubble makes for blazing sunsets.
U.N.'s World Food Program says it still expects to be feeding
around 750,000 tsunami victims well into next year.
life remains tough even for farmers with fields full of crops.
Salami has never grown corn higher ó his plants stand two feet
taller than him. But when heavy rain coincides with a high tide,
around half of his 5 1/2-acre plot floods. He says it never did
before, and blames the tsunami for changing the coastline.
"The sea is around 50 yards
closer now," he said. "But we cannot lose hope. Whom can
I complain to, anyhow?"
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