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Spokesperson for South and East Asia
Marcus Prior, a former journalist, was WFP's East Africa spokesperson before coming to Bangkok in 2010 to head up public relations in South and East Asia.
Together with our new Country Director Dierk Stegen, I recently went to Yomju County in North Pyongan province as part of an assessment mission for a food for community development (FFCD) project.
On assessment missions like this we make pre-work surveys – checking the workload and potential impact of various types of food for work activities. WFP supports FFCD activities that reduce the impact of natural disasters and rehabilitate agricultural land which has been damaged. Local communities propose sites, which WFP then inspects. If a project is approved, WFP gives take home rations to each of the participants in the project, who come from the most food insecure families in the area.
The project I was assessing that day was the reclamation of 29 hectares of tidal land, which was to be integrated with other activities such as irrigation and construction of drainage canals and feeder roads.
During our visit I met a very old woman - Ms Han. At first I didn’t pay much attention to Ms Han as I was busy with filling out the survey paperwork. Because she was so energetic and enthusiastic, I didn’t realize that she wasn’t a regular member of our government counterpart team.
It turned out that Ms Han was 80 years old and through her capacity as Chairwomen of the Yomju County People’s Committee, had witnessed WFP’s assistance to her community since 1995. After her retirement from the Chairwoman’s post in 2003, Ms Han became a full-time member of the National Coordinating Committee – WFP’s counterpart in DPR Korea.
What impressed me the most, was her knowledge about WFP’s activities, the nutritional support to pregnant and nursing mothers and children. Ms Han told us that WFP’s nutritional support had changed the lives of many and that she herself had witnessed the improvement of their health and nutritional status over many years.
When talking about the food for community development projects in Yomju county, Ms Han said proudly, “Since 2006, we have reclaimed a total of 2000 hectares of tidal land with an average yield of 5 metric tons per hectare for paddy. Of this, 900 hectares was accomplished through WFP’s Food for Community Development projects.
"It normally takes seven years for the newly reclaimed land to reach its full potential yield. Now some lands reclaimed through WFP projects can yield as high as 8 metric tons per hectare. This is a big contribution to my country’s food security,” she said.
Ms Han still remembers how she in 2008 walked eight kilometers to the project site to supervise the implementation of land reclamation supported by WFP.
“It was an amazing experience for me. To finally see crops standing on the new land was the most exciting and happy moment for me. I got a feeling of fulfillment and satisfaction,” she told us cheerfully.
WFP Country Director Dierk Stegen expressed deep appreciation to Ms. Han for her continued engagement in WFP projects. "The success of WFP’s food for community development is attributed to the dedication and commitment of thousands people like Ms. Han working on the ground," he sad. "It’s important to continue long-term investments in local development through FFCD projects. At such a senior age, Ms. Han should have just stayed at home and have fun with her four grandchildren. However, she remains tireless and productive at work. Her heart goes out all the way to help and support the people in her community. I highly respect and admire her devotion."
Story by Xuerong Liu, Head of field coordination, WFP DPRK Country Office