Iloilo Farmers continue to rebuild one year after Yolanda
In the remote town of Lemery, Iloilo, rural communities still bear the scars left by supertyphoon Yolanda. When the typhoon hit the Philippines in November 2013, up to 95% of smallholder farmers in the area were completely devastated.
A year later, many of the humble farmer’s houses still show signs of damage, their walls made of nipa are held up with scavenged wood. Fences and lamp posts along the dirt roads remain toppled and unrepaired.
But there are also some houses that bear sparkling new roofs, replacing the ones blown away by the strong winds. Land areas right beside the houses are grown with vegetables ready to be harvested and show seeds of hope.
These vegetable plots were grown through a livelihood program spearheaded by Jollibee Group Foundation (JGF). Dubbed as the Farmer Livelihood Recovery Program (FLRP), it aims to enable farmers to grow food for their family’s consumption and generate additional income. The program commenced in March 2014 and provided financing, training and marketing assistance. 702 smallholder farmers have been assisted since. Aside from Iloilo, the program was also implemented in Antique, Aklan and Cebu.
One of the farmers who benefitted from the program is Rosemarie Arante. Through the program they were able to transform idle lands near their homes, which were affected by the typhoon, into vegetable plots, planting seeds provided by JGF. “We plant different vegetables including eggplant, squash, okra, ampalaya and green beans,” said Arante.
“It’s a big help to have the vegetables for our daily meals. Instead of having to buy fish or meat, we can just harvest the vegetables for cooking,” points out farmer Fred Cabacas, the President of the local farming association.
Beyond Subsistence Farming
Other farmers were able to make small investments with their earnings and savings.
Eleanor Gonzales reported that they were able to buy piglets for fattening from the savings of the labor cash provided by JGF.
Eugenio Dable, a farmer from Bangkal, said he invested his savings in purchasing more vegetable seeds. He also planted 100 banana trees, which he expects to harvest in 6 months.
Other farmers like Aniolino Matutino likewise purchased additional seeds of squash and eggplant, which he was able to successfully grow and sell.
Iris Gulanes, Manager of Taytay sa Kauswagan Inc. (TSKI)-Community Enterprise Development Department, one of the local partners of JGF, considers the program a success.
“I’m very pleased with the outcome of the program because it’s served its purpose to provide support to the farmers after the typhoon. I consider it a bonus that some of the farmers have been able to invest their savings in other income-earning ventures,” she said.
She also cites positive changes in terms of the community’s attitudes and values. Working together has been beneficial for the community. The farmers learn from each other on how to produce a good harvest and even share surplus seeds and produce.
“Even when the initial support ended, they decided among themselves to continue planting seeds and have continued with the program on their own. Others have even diversified their crops,” said Gulanes.
While complete recovery may still be a long way ahead, the farmers are thankful that the extra income from the vegetables has been able to sustain their daily needs and finance the expansion of their livelihood activities. “Hopefully, with continued training and support, they will eventually become farming enterprises that can supply their vegetables to a steady market,” she adds.