Typhoon Haiyan took away her home and livelihood. Now she's helping her neighbours with farming and trade

Published: Feb 12, 2016 Reading time: 6 minutes
Typhoon Haiyan took away her home and livelihood. Now she's helping her neighbours with farming and trade
© Foto: PIN Archive

Mother of five Teresita L. Cabaguing used to live with her family in a farmhouse and had a small shop in the village of Mayana in the Eastern Samar. She used to breed and sell domestic animals and crops for a living. When typhoon Haiyan hit Philippines in November 2013, she lost everything. At that time, Teresita was respected representative of the local community and she felt obligated to provide moral support to her neighbours and people needing her help. Even today, more than two years after the disaster, residents of the Eastern Samar are still dealing with the consequences. They are struggling to find the way to survive in the new conditions. Therefore, Teresita, along with several other local authorities, has become a local agent for farmers under the programme of People In Need designed to restore livelihoods and to support communities affected by the typhoon in the Philippines.

"Back then the typhoon literally washed away our entire house. It killed all the animals and destroyed all the vegetables and coconut trees. There were only ruins where our home used to be. I was shocked. But even more terrifying was to see the state of the entire area," says Teresita. "I wasn't responsible only for my family, but for the entire community as well. The others respected me and they needed my moral support more than ever. A leader has to remain strong even during greatest crisis." claims Teresita.

Two years since the disaster

The Eastern Samar was one of the areas the typhoon hit the hardest in 2013, because it was the first place in its way. Residents of the Eastern Samar, which was one of the poorest areas in the country even before the disaster, were dependent on the humanitarian aid. They desperately needed food, water, clothing and temporary shelter. All of that was swiftly provided to them by nonprofit and humanitarian organisations including People In Need. Thanks to the public works programme Cash for Work, local people helped to clear away the debris, and thus secured a subsistence minimum for themselves and for their families. For now, PIN focuses primarily on providing help to small farmers, who lost their job on coconut plantations, and tries to support them in an alternative farming. Typhoon Haiyan destroyed roughly around 42 million of coconut trees. For the families dependent on coconut farming, without any other source of livelihood, it was a disaster. Newly planted coconut trees don't bear fruit for the first 5 to 8 years.

Under the programme for livelihood restoration, PIN is currently training farmers, establishing exemplary fields, and presenting the differences between traditional and modern farming such as usage of fertilizers, effective choice of crops and trade management to local residents. 24 agents were chosen for the programme. 12 men and 12 women. 2 agents for every local government. They are all either respected members of local community or leaders of farm communities experienced in farming and trade. The main objective of these agents is to share their knowledge with other farmers and to establish cooperation with consumers, processors and local authorities. Teresita was selected as an agent in the Guiuan area. "I've been chosen for this position thanks to my rich experience. Before the typhoon hit, I used to take care of utilization and sales of the products from our community," Teresita explains. "Since the 1980 I used to breed and sell pigs and poultry for a living. I would sell coconut copra, root crops and vegetables. I also used to sell coconut wine tuba, and banig, hand-made mats from the nearby villages."

Agents and exemplary fields

All the agents have undergone an intensive three-month training in the areas of livelihood provision, agricultural business, financial literacy, education, organizational skills and establishing the cooperation with local authorities and governments. Subsequently, these farmers are training others and sharing their experience. This system proved to be the most effective. Not all locals are motivated and dedicated enough to join the process of training lasting for couple months. A cooperation with agents - their neighbours and people they know - is far more familiar to them. One of the main objectives of the programme is to show local farmers that farming has a bright future in the Philippines and that it can lead to a stable income for their families.

Agriculture in the Eastern Samar used to be based on aforementioned coconut farming, and to lesser extend on rice, sweet potatoes or cassava. After 2013 it was necessary to discover new, alternative resources. PIN workers assessed that vegetables farming can present efficient source of livelihood for the locals. That was not really common for this area as local markets used to sell vegetables exported from Luzon and Mindanao islands. MIN therefore established 26 exemplary fields across various areas. Anybody can participate. Thanks to the fields, 622 farmers in total have learned how to cultivate cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, pumpkins, sweet corn, soybeans, ginger, cabbage and carrots. For example carrots and cabbage are something new in the Eastern Samar. Local farmers have always assumed that the area is not suited for these types of vegetables. Thanks to the exemplary fields and training, they learned it is possible to grow these plants as they strive in local conditions. "I wasn't able to recognize carrot leaves and I had no idea how to grow one. Now I know. Thanks to the PIN programme I've learned that carrot can grow even in our area," says Jaime Busa, an agent for Guindalitan in Maydolong. One of our goals is to show that an implementation of new agricultural methods results in richer harvest. It can take couple more years, but it will help locals to become independent.

Another important source of livelihood is livestock breeding and meat processing. Teresita wants to focus on this particular area in Guiuan, as there is a suitable market with high demand for processed meat. "I believe that expertise in meat industry will be huge benefit for our community. It will help every participant to increase the income for his family and children," says Teresita. "We strive to make our farmers expand their livelihood, which they depend on, by new ways of living in order to be better prepared for the future. Proper planning is important. Success comes only with hard work," she adds.

Help provided by People In Need

People In Need has been operating in Philippines since November 2013, when the typhoon Haiyan struck. PIN team begin distributing food aid to locals immediately after the disaster. Workers also participated in cleaning away the debris, making the roads available and building temporary shelters. PIN deployed 500,000 CZK from the the People in Need Club of Friends fund in order to help the victims and simultaneously launched a public collection SOS Philippines Currently, PIN focuses on development aid in Philippines. The project to restore livelihood and to support communities hit by the typhoon Haiyan is currently in progress in cooperation with two Alliance2015 partner organisations - Helvetas and ACTED. The results so far are very promising. For example, during the last 10 days of January the agents managed to insure almost 600 farmers and their cost of production of estimated value of 1,000,000 CZK. The programme was launched in May 2015 and it will be running at least until December 2016. By that time, farmers should be independent and not reliant on the help from others.

For more information please contact:

Pavel Muroň, People In Need Coordinator in Phillipines, M: +63 906 495 9089 pavel.muron@peopleinneed.cz

Autor: Monika Ticháčková, Pavel Muroň

Related articles