Paving the way for rehabilitation of farming community in the Philippines 

By Johahn Bhurrut July 07, 2015

When super typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines in November 2013, the agriculture sector took a major hit. The coconut industry was particularly affected and in the province of Leyte in the Eastern Visayas region, 61 percent of plantations were destroyed. The economic impact on municipalities such as Tabango, which relies heavily on coconut production, was devastating. Hundreds of farmers lost their only source of income and, with people’s livelihoods at stake, the situation required immediate attention.

“There wasn’t much water or rain but the wind was very strong. It seemed like the typhoon was man-made. It kept on shaking our house, it stops, and then starts shaking it again. When it won’t shake our house, it will try to lift it from the ground,” recalled Romulo dela Peza. Dela Peza is a 66-year-old copra producer who was left out of work and without a house following the typhoon.

Working with the Philippine Business for Social Progress, Cargill funded a recovery and rehabilitation project to address the economic impact and the struggles of farmers in Tabango. They brought together local stakeholders which include coconut farmers, land owners, the local government, agencies and academia to tackle the problem head-on. A two-year plan was formulated in early 2014. Leaders within the farming community were identified and provided with organization development, financial management and project management training, among others.

Philip Soliven, country representative for the Philippines tells us more about this wonderful initiative

Restoring life

Today, over 15,600 seedlings of fast growing coconut varieties have been planted over a 100-hectare plantation. Another 8,400 more seedlings are scheduled to be planted to further cover an additional 50 hectares. A total of 204 farmers participated in the program thus far, so their families can recover from lost livelihood.

A coconut nursery was set up to produce and supply in excess of 28,000 seedlings. While that would ensure income for the farmers in the long run, it did not address their needs in the shorter term. Intercropping was thus introduced to the farmers to reap short-term gains while waiting for the coconuts to bear fruit and yield higher income.

Dela Peza was one of the 204 farmers who benefited from the program. He now earns as much as PhP8,000 a month (about $177 U.S.) – more than what he used to receive before.
Romulo Recola, another project beneficiary is more than thankful for the opportunity and a new lease on life that Cargill and PBSP’s initiative have presented to him. “The project of Cargill really helped us a lot. We get something out of planting corn and coconuts and gardening. It really helped us so much since we have more work to do,” he said.

Cargill trained 53 farmers on an Integrated Farming System, which teaches farmers to grow their own food and raise farm animals necessary for their basic nutritional needs, backyard gardening, organic farming, vermicomposting, and livestock raising, in addition to the installation of a demo farm where they can learn new farming methods and technologies, especially in cultivating high-value crops.

The end goal is to rehabilitate 600 hectares of coconut plantation by planting new varieties of coconuts and lay out intercropping modules. In addition, a small water impounding system is being set up to mitigate the lack of water in the region.