1 The 2004 tsunami in Aceh
- The Indian Ocean tsunami was triggered by a 9.1 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Aceh, affecting 92,000 ha of agricultural land and plantations in Aceh, and farmland and farmers’ livelihoods in Thailand, India and Sri Lanka.
- Wave heights were up to 30 m along Aceh’s west coast and up to 5 m along the east coast.
- More than 330,000 people in Aceh required food and financial assistance as a result of loss of farming and fishing livelihoods.
- The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has developed a post-tsunami damage classification system to help determine where to concentrate land rehabilitation efforts.
2 A timeframe for agricultural recovery
- Immediate activities (within 6 months) after a tsunami:
- Clean up waste and debris.
- Survey land levels.
- Train agricultural staff in soil and water assessment and observation.
- Short-term activities (3–12 months) after a tsunami:
- Communicate with local farmers, especially women.
- Coordinate advice and planning.
- Repair irrigation and drainage infrastructure.
- Train agricultural staff and farmers in rehabilitation methods.
- Avoid establishing crops on saline land.
- Incorporate shallow sediments into the soil.
- Remove deep or highly saline sediments.
- Use irrigation water (or rainfall) to flush salt from the soil.
- Investigate other methods of producing income in rural areas.
- Establish home food gardens.
- Long-term activities (> 12 months) after a tsunami:
- Transfer technology and knowledge to farmers.
- Maintain training programs for agricultural staff and non-government organisations.
- Monitor plant nutrition and crop health.
- Monitor the long-term health of tree crops, which might be affected by seasonal fluctuations in saline groundwater levels.
- Expand support and training to surrounding areas less affected by the tsunami.
3 Post-tsunami assessment and restoration of soil and water
- The level of salinity in tsunami-affected soils in Aceh and the rate of salt leaching was influenced by:
- the length of time that land was inundated by sea water
- soil moisture levels at the time of the tsunami
- soil type—salt leaches faster from sandy and peat soils than from clay soils
- the depth and type of sediment deposited by the tsunami
- drainage in fields and the local catchment
- access to irrigation water to flush salt from fields
- rainfall after the tsunami.
- Salt can leach vertically through the soil profile and laterally across fields with surface waters.
- Three years after the tsunami, high salinity readings were still measured in Aceh, mainly linked to poor drainage.
- Construct in-field drainage to accelerate the salt leaching process.
- Assess results from soil salinity surveys carefully to avoid misinterpretation.
- Incorporate shallow sediments (<20 cm) that are not highly saline into the topsoil.
- Remove deeper or highly saline sediments from fields.
4 Crop management
- Identify the types of farming systems present before the tsunami, including crops and yields, and management of inputs such as fertilisers.
- Make important resources such as soils or landscape maps available to all organisations and groups working to restore agriculture.
- Establish crops at sites where the tsunami impacts are minimal and the soil is least affected by salinity.
- Test water sources, especially groundwater, for salinity levels before using the water for irrigation.
- Consider using raised beds, which are useful to establish crops in salinity-affected soils and areas prone to waterlogging.
- Where available, use salt-tolerant varieties of crops.
- Assess the local seed supply situation:
- Distribute viable, certified seed of crops and varieties that farmers are familiar with.
- Provide training in the production of seed crops, and quality assurance, storage and distribution of seed.
- Monitor changes in weed species. Encourage coordination between farmers to control pests and weeds.
- After planting, monitor growth, yields and any symptoms of nutrient deficiencies or plant stress, to identify trends and develop site histories.
- Test soils for major nutrients before planting and fertilising.
- Use organic fertilisers, such as manure, composts, crop residues and mulches, to improve soil health and fertility.
- Develop trials to demonstrate new production systems and practices, and compare them with existing farmer practices.
5 Aiding the recovery of agriculture and farmer livelihoods
Communication and coordination
- In emergency planning protocols, clearly allocate responsibilities and activities in agricultural areas among national, provincial and local government research and extension agencies, non-government organisations (NGOs) and farmer groups.
- Develop links and coordination between governments and NGOs.
- Coordinate urban recovery and agricultural rehabilitation to minimise impacts on agricultural land.
- Build the capacity of local agricultural extension staff, NGO workers and farmer groups:
- by involving farmers in field trials and monitoring activities
- by providing training in what to expect and how to overcome production problems due to seawater inundation and sediment.
- Rebuild technical and quality assurance capacity (especially laboratory facilities).
- Re-establish farmer and community groups, including groups for women.
- Encourage productive activity.
- Facilitate the establishment of food gardens in refugee camps, especially in rural areas where the majority of residents will be farmers.
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