Coconut farmers at risk – Philippines

Typhoon Haiyan hit the central Philippines last November 8. It caused more than 6,000 deaths, affected an additional 14 million people and damaged 600,000 hectares of farmland. Since then, farmers have struggled to recover.

coco2At the end of January, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) concisely stated, “In the Philippines, small-scale producers need help to recover livelihoods while replanted trees mature”. Thirty-three million coconut trees were damaged or destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan in Eastern Visayas, the second largest coconut-producing region of the country. More than a million farmers were impacted. Although they are in the process of replanting the trees, a major concern is that it will take between six and eight years for the tress to reach maturity and for production to return to pre-typhoon levels.

With 26.6% of global production, the Philippine archipelago is the second largest coconut producer in the world. The devastation caused by the typhoon led to fallout throughout the sector, affecting not only the farm owners, workers and suppliers but also those involved in transport and logistics. To get by, most farmers will have to borrow at interest rates as high as 120%.

 

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Many of the families of Children of the Mekong’s sponsored children made their living through day labour on local plantations. Overnight, these households were left with no means of subsistence. The organisation mobilised to implement projects that would allow these families to quickly find a way to provide for themselves.

Although these projects are not currently tied directly to coconut-tree production, Livelihood ACAY–which is involved in a community near Tacloban–envisions the possibility of replanting the trees that were the main source of income for the village. Emmanuel Roy, a “Bamboo” volunteer in the Philippines, received a report of a student from Leyte whose family was severely affected by the typhoon. With help from the Department of Agriculture, which distributed the seeds, the family has recently replanted destroyed rice fields. They are also growing vegetables and picking fruit, which they sell in the market to support themselves.

Children of the Mekong hopes that these reconstruction and diversification efforts will provide sustainable activities for these families, who were so dependent on what had been the principal source of revenue for the archipelago.

Texte: Matthieu Delaunay        Photo: ©Antoine Besson