One of the areas most damaged by the last two super typhoons, which made landfall in the country, is the Eastern Visayas region. With one super typhoon making landfall where communities have barely recovered from another, recovery and rehabilitation efforts have become more and more challenging.
By Dabet Castaneda
PINABACDAO, WESTERN SAMAR – Marlo Sablawon’s home was one of the 18 households totally damaged by super typhoon Ruby (Hagupit) when it made landfall in this banana farm village on December 5, exactly a year and a month after super typhoon Yolanda hit this same town last year.
“Our village was hit harder by Typhoon Ruby, ” Marlo said comparing the recent super typhoon to last year’s Yolanda (Haiyan). “All our crops were destroyed, our banana trees fell” he added. While Yolanda’s winds were stronger, it was Ruby’s longer rain fall, which, villagers said, lasted for cumulatively eight hours, that made it destructive to farm produce. “The few crops and trees left standing eventually rotted because it was inundated in rain water for days,” Marlo said.
Village chief Romeo Rastata affirmed Marlo’s sentiments. He said Ruby damaged a total of 169 households while Yolanda damaged 38. The onslaught of Ruby also damaged their church, school building, day care center and a banana processing plant where farmers sell their produce. Rastata could not hide his disappointment with what has happened to their banana plantation because it was on its way to full recovery after Yolanda.
The way to recovery
Pinabacdao was one of the municipalities identified by the Citizens’ Disaster Response Center (CDRC) and its regional partner, Leyte Center for Development (LCDE), as a beneficiary of its livelihood project. This was after they conducted a Damage, Needs and Capacities Assessments (DNCA) in Yolanda- affected areas in February 2014 or three months after the super typhoon’s onslaught. Target groups chosen were the most marginalized communities, which received minimal relief and support from government agencies. This project is ably supported by Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe and is present in nine municipalities: Quinapondan and General MacArthur in Eastern Samar; Pinabacdao, Calbiga and San Sebastian in West Samar; and Albuera, Carigara, San Isidro and Ormoc in Leyte.
Pinabacdao, like all of the beneficiary areas, is a farming community. It produces bananas, root crops like ginger and sweet potato, and vegetables like Chinese cabbage (pechay), string beans, water spinach (kangkong), radish, bitter gourd, eggplant and ladies’ fingers (okra). Because of this, farmers were given vegetable seedlings. Every family was also grouped by fives and was given a complete set of farming and gardening tools. These tools were to be shared by the group members when doing their farming chores.
Rastata said the farming and gardening tools were of big help to the farmers because they had nothing to use before except for a bolo. “Many benefited from the seeds. Some were already able to sell their produce” he said.
Alfonso Tabontabon, one of the beneficiaries, also attended a training conducted by CDRC and LCDE. The training aimed to teach them how to use the tools and how to make organic fertilizers and pesticides.
“We already have experiences using the tools so it was not difficult. What we learned a lot from was in making organic fertilizers and pesticides from our own crops,” he said. Alfonso said organic farm inputs are made from vegetables and root crops found in their farms.
Aside from being inexpensive as compared to chemical fertilizers and pesticides, Alfonso said, the organic farm inputs have proven to be effective and their crops seem to be healthier because of the absence of chemicals.
In less than a year since Yolanda, Alfonso said, they have managed to harvest vegetables and bananas thrice.
Rastata said the economic condition of their community has since improved. They have not only provided food for their individual households, but more importantly, they have contributed to the food supply in the neighboring town of Tacloban which, according to government records, was one of the hardest hit by Yolanda.
The aftermath of Ruby may have damaged their community and their farms but this has not dampened their spirits, Alfonso said. He attributes this to the training and farming tools provided by CDRC and LCDE.