The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, known as North Korea, is a nation of 24 million people living in a largely mountainous country. Its leaders pursue a strongly isolationist policy of economic self-reliance that requires its population of 24 million people to produce the country’s own food requirements.
Owing to the need to cultivate more land for a growing population, large-scale deforestation has taken place over the last decade, exacerbating erosion and rainfall run-off, which in turn has increased the occurrence of flooding and landslides.
Annual floods in late summer over the last number of years, with accompanying landslides, have impacted severely on crop production.
Flooding in July 2012 caused over 200 deaths, displaced some 241 000 people and destroyed over 120 000 hectares of farmland. This resulted in a deficit of more than one million tonnes of food, with more than 16 million people suffering from malnutrition.
The latest floods, over the period 12 to 22 July 2013, displaced 59 000 people, with the impact on agriculture still to be ascertained.
Kim Hed Un is only 15 years old, but she is one of many people who have experienced repeated natural disasters. She recalls “The floods came twice. The first time we lived in the mountains and the walls of our house fell down as a landslide came crashing in. We then moved to the village, but flooding caused our new house to fill with water.”
In an attempt to address this vicious cycle, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, with support from the British Red Cross, is organising large-scale tree planting projects and will be training local people on how to increase seed production for growing more food.
Sir Nicholas Young, British Red Cross chief executive, after visiting the country recently, said “With the combined efforts of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and the enthusiasm of the DPRK Red Cross volunteer leaders, I’m confident the country can begin to reduce the impact of natural disasters on its people and pave the way for improvements in crop production”.