Helping farmers beat drought in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

Concern Worldwide is helping farmers in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea beat drought and increase yields by assisting in the rehabilitation of fixed irrigation systems on farms.

Drought

Last summer, the official news agency of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was reporting the worst drought in over a decade, with some areas of the country experiencing the lowest rainfall levels since 1961.

Concerns over potential food shortages prompted the government to mobilise office workers, farmers and women into the fields to help direct water into thirsty fields and rice paddies. Chronic food shortages have been a stark reality for many North Koreans in the last 20 years – in the 1990s, famine is thought to have killed an estimated one million people in the country.

Bulkier yields

Against this backdrop, this picture taken at Anbyon Up-farm last September is all the more amazing. Despite the terrible drought, rice yields at this farm were as good, year-on-year, as before.

Pak Yon Chun is manager of the Anbyon Up-farm. She spoke to us about how her farm managed to achieve bulkier yields than neighbouring farms, despite the drought.

With the help of Concern, our farm rehabilitated the fixed irrigation system for 137 hectares of paddy fields last year.

Fixed irrigation system

The fixed irrigation system at Anbyon Up-farm consists of one main supply pump station and two boost pump stations. Concern provided a new set of pumps and motors to increase the water supply to the boost pump stations. Old motors were repaired, water transmission pipes were extended, iron electric wires were replaced with aluminium wire, and a 200kva transformer was installed to improve the power supply. Small portable pumps were also provided for rain-fed fields.

Dried paddies after transplantation, Anbyon Up-farm. Photo taken by Concern Worldwide.
Dried paddies after transplantation, Anbyon Up-farm. Photo taken by Concern Worldwide.

Beating drought

Such preparedness enabled timely irrigation of transplanted rice seedlings which gave the plants a head start as they grew on. Pak Yon Chun explained the difference this made to her farm’s yield:

The average yield in this area used to be 3.5 metric tonnes per hectare, with 2.5 metric tonnes per hectare in the worst 30 hectares. We had an average yield of 4.7 metric tonnes per hectare this year, which is in total a 164.4 metric tonne increase. This is amazing.

This improvement was largely due to the rehabilitated fixed irrigation system. The small portable pumps helped greatly too as they enabled targeted irrigation where it was needed in the paddy fields. “Neighbouring farms are envious and so we are very proud,” Pak Yon Chun concluded.

Sustainable food production

Concern is helping to increase sustainable food production in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea by establishing community-based greenhouses, irrigation systems, and goat’s milk and soya bean processing facilities. Also, through training, exchange visits and conferences, we help locals to increase their technical and management skills. In 2014,over 100,000 people benefitted from our agriculture, nutrition and food security programme.

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