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Action Against Hunger Unites Local Resilience Efforts with Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Agrarian Reform in BARMM

Photo courtesy of MAFAR-BARMM

Action Against Hunger Philippines signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Agrarian Reform in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (MAFAR-BARMM) on July 23, 2020, at the MAFAR Regional Office in Cotabato City, Maguindanao. The objective of the collaboration is to unite efforts in strengthening local resilience and within areas in the region that are greatly susceptible to natural hazards.


“Action Against Hunger’s mandate is to fight and to address food insecurity and nutrition insecurity, so I do believe that this MOU with MAFAR is key for us to jointly address issues that are affecting the most vulnerable in the BARMM Region in a collaborative and coordinated manner”
Thierry Laurent-Badin, Action Against Hunger Philippines Country Director


During the online ceremonial signing, Thierry Laurent-Badin, Country Director of Action Against Hunger Philippines, talked about the importance of the established partnership in promoting the organization’s advocacy. “Action Against Hunger’s mandate is to fight and to address food insecurity and nutrition insecurity, so I do believe that this MOU with MAFAR is key for us to jointly address issues that are affecting the most vulnerable in the BARMM Region in a collaborative and coordinated manner,” said the country director.
 
Dr. Mohammad S. Yacob, Minister of MAFAR-BARMM, on the other hand, expressed his enthusiasm for the collaboration, stating “I am happy to see this partnership, for me, it is a process of long engagement in the community and I am very grateful to continue the aspirations. I express my thanks to Action Against Hunger and we hope and pray that this is the beginning of a fruitful partnership.”

“I am happy to see this partnership, for me it is a process of long engagement in the community and I am very grateful to continue the aspirations. I express my thanks to Action Against Hunger and we hope and pray that this is the beginning of a fruitful partnership.”Dr. Mohammad S. Yacob, Minister of MAFAR-BARMM


Delilah Chua (Head of Cotabato Base) hosted the ceremony alongside Genaro Sanchez (Head of Project) and Gay Marie Aban (Human Resources Officer). Virtually present to witness the signing were Melinda Buensuceso (Operations Coordinator) and Jasper Llanderal (Head of Iligan Base).

Photo by Rhea Poliquin for Action Against Hunger

‘Strengthening Local Resilience and Building Capacities in Areas at High Risk of Natural Hazards in BARMM, Mindanao’ is a disaster risk reduction (DRR) project funded by the United States Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (USAID-BHA) and implemented by Action Against Hunger Philippines with the support of local government units.

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STALLED BUSINESS MODEL TRANSFORMED INTO RESILIENT GROWTH

In 2015, MATATAG, a 98-member women-led community savings group Cluster Level Association (CLA) in Hugom, San Jose, Batangas started a mushroom production business after attending a Mushroom Production Training conducted by the Southern Tagalog Integrated Agricultural Research Center (STIARC) and the Municipal Agriculture Office (MAO) of San Juan, Batangas. Full of eagerness, they were able to start their first mushroom house using light materials. The former barangay captain lent them a space where they constructed the grow house. They started with 250 fruiting bags producing weekly harvest of at least seven kilos of fresh oyster mushrooms. Even with minimal produce, they were eager to introduce their products to the barangay.

By 2016, they needed to relocate and construct a new mushroom house in Sitio Biga since the owner needed the original space lent to them. Here, they were able to produce 800 grow bags in 6 months. In February 2016, STIARC introduced four varieties of oyster mushrooms and provided additional 2000 fruiting bags as assistance to the group. The following year, another 1,500 fruiting bags were provided. STIARC continued to support the group until 2018, providing materials that were unable in San Juan, in addition to technical assistance.

In November 2018, MATATAG began constructing a new mushroom house with their share of ₱50,000 and a grant amounting to ₱456,000 from STIARC. The house was finished in February 2019 and they were able to grow 5,000 fruiting bags but only 3,000 were harvested due to the hot temperature inside the house. In the original building plan from STIARC, the mushroom house did not include the needed insulation system which caused low production. Because of this, the business slowed down and was no longer growing. The low revenue, profit, and remuneration for working members of the group took its toll and manifested in the members’ low morale, lack of motivation to put more hours in the business, and lesser cooperation among each other.

By September 2019, the CLA participated in Action Against Hunger’s Resilient Livelihood Workshop, a component of the ‘Improving Resilience of the KNH NGO Partners to Natural Disasters Phase 2’ (I-Respond 2). The workshop proved to be the turning point for the group. They learned how to improve their business to become resilient amidst existing risks and impending hazards. They saw that all is not lost in the business that they started four years prior. The workshop further strengthened the connection between the disasters and livelihood in the context of resilience. Disaster and business were not new to the organization, as workshops were conducted prior to the livelihood workshop; however, the knowledge how to make their business more resilient towards disasters was the missing link. The realization that the negative effects of disasters especially on their livelihood are primarily due to human choices, the lack of understanding of their risks, and the lack of preparedness fueled their motivation to integrate resilience strategies in their business plan. The knowledge and tools they acquired from the training have therefore been used to implement different mitigation efforts to enhance their resilience.

Furthermore, the Resilient Livelihood Training allowed them to analyze their business and manage it efficiently. This made them realize the potential of their business, and if effectively managed, can provide a livelihood for all the members. The training also made the women members aware of the importance of working together and in the process increase the level of motivation amongst them. Experiencing the training had the working members stepping up and putting more effort into making the business flourish again as manifested by the members more active participation in the governance and operations of the business after the training

The CLA members were excited about the newly regained growth of the mushroom production business, which now allows them to start paying salaries for the 30 members working in the production of the mushrooms. The additional seed capital of ₱50,000 received from Action Against Hunger helped exponentially in regaining their growth by enabling them to buy essential to the business inputs and supporting administrative and labor costs.

Now, the CLA is motivated towards creating a more resilient and sustainable livelihood. Through the mushroom business, the CLA is optimistic that it will be able to provide support to the needs of its 98 women strong membership in the following years. They planned to expand from fresh mushrooms production to other product derivatives and they now understand that the increase in supply and demand in mushroom and its derivatives are key in doing so. The then CLA started to expand their production capacity by advocating mushroom as a viable livelihood option and teaching other barangays how to grow mushrooms. They continued this as an effort to involve more communities in their journey to create a resilient livelihood and better life for all.
The group was able to restart with 2,500 fruiting bags and started to expand their mushroom products to crispy mushroom chicharron with different flavors. By March 2020, they harvested 65 kilos with 1,200 bags worth ₱20,000.

Rowena Villarin, the Treasurer of MATATAG, in reflection to their group’s experiences shared, “when handling a business, you have to be focused and be prepared for any struggles that may come along. Never give up.”

MOVE UP HEADSTRAINING FOR COMMUNITY LEADERS

QUEZON CITY – Resilience through Financial Freedom and Preparedness: The Moving Urban Poor Communities towards Resilience Project (MOVE UP) holds its Training of Trainers on Financial Literacy and Community Savings Groups, Torre Venezia, Quezon City, March 6-9, 2018. Attended by around 60 participants representing barangays from MOVE UP target cities Malabon, Quezon City, Valenzuela, Caloocan and Navotas, the training aims to boost the understanding and skills of target communities on financial planning, insurance and investments while linking it to disaster risk reduction and management.

As an outcome, a pool of trainers is formed to deliver financial literacy sessions and form community savings groups in barangays.

The training is one of the series of projects of MOVE UP which seeks to demonstrate systems and models of Alternative Temporary Shelter, resilient livelihoods and risk transfer modalities to improve the disaster risk reduction and management in MOVE UP target cities in Metro Manila. Funded by the European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) under its Humanitarian Action Plan for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, MOVE UP is an urban disaster risk reduction project implemented by a consortium composed of Action Against Hunger Philippines, Plan International Philippines and CARE Nederland with its local partner, ACCORD Inc. ●

Turning struggles into opportunities: A community’s response to the damaging effects of flood water and access to life-sustaining potable water

The community of Barangay Caimpugan in San Francisco, Agusan del Sur sits along the Gibong River—a  source of irrigation for some 6,000 hectares of rice fields in three municipalities of the province. Because of its close proximity to the river, its residents often experience floods during the rainy season, especially with heavy rains induced by tropical storms causing the river to overflow.

This particular characteristic makes the community reliant on agriculture, the majority of their arable lands are dedicated to rice farming. The river provides water for their crops and sustains the irrigation even in dry months. Although this also poses a threat of flooding when the river overflows damaging crops that are not yet harvested. Those who do not have lands to till are earning as farmhands s, mostly the men, being paid a daily wage. Others find work in nearby palm oil tree plantations. The earnings would always almost barely suffice for the family’s needs attributable to the impacts of the floods on their crops. Hence, they already learned to live with it and coping with the insufficiency.

Despite being a low-lying land, clean and safe drinking water source is a recurring challenge. The barangay is not covered by the public water utility services of San Francisco. Rainwater is collected and used by households for cooking, washing their dirty dishes and clothes, and even for drinking. Others buy drinking water from small business owners retailing water in limited quantities or from refilling stations in Barangay Lapinigan.

For the Caimpugan Women for Strength (CAWOFS) Cluster Level Association, a federation of 6 self-help groups (SHGs) composed of women, this reality does not deter them from aspiring for a better future.

What they needed was a sustainable source of livelihood to be able to contribute to their families’ income while striving to learn more about the ways they can reduce the impacts of flooding to their community.

An opportunity came with the contingency planning and resilient livelihood workshop through the I-RESPOND 2, a project funded by Kindernothilfe (KNH) and implemented by Action Against Hunger aimed at improving the capacities of partner barangays on disaster preparedness and resiliency. CAWOFS actively shared their ideas and together with their barangay, local government unit (BLGU) leaders learned how they can best prepare for and mitigate the impacts of disasters. The Barangay Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (BDRMC) was strengthened with the inclusion of the officers and members of the CLA into the different committees. Together with the BLGU, they were able to develop a contingency plan on floods.

The Resilient Livelihood discussion also helped them craft a plan to provide earning opportunities for their members while helping to solve one of the community’s problems – clean water supply. They developed a business plan around the distribution of safe drinking water to households. Their business will sell water in 20-liter containers supplied by a partner water refilling station from Barangay Bayugan, roughly 9 kilometers away from their barangay. Based on the contingency plan and working on the scenario of recurring flooding, the CLA will utilize the early warning system they installed to ensure that the water will be potable and not contaminated. These efforts are complemented by the BLGUs commitment to provide them a space to use as their store and the Municipal LGU contribution for the construction of a building. This would serve as the group’s warehouse to stock water containers, and distribution point.

 

On January 28, 2020, the group received the seed capital worth fifty thousand pesos (PhP50,000.00) from the I-Respond 2 through a local KNH NGO partner, the Foundation for the Development of Agusanons, Inc. (FDAI) based in San Francisco. With the seed capital, the CLA leaders conducted preparatory activities including promotion and orientations to the Self Help Groups about the business venture. Originally, the plan was for the CLA to manage the business. But as discussions went on, they decided that Volunteer SHG, one of the self-help groups of the CLA, will handle the business with the supervision of the CLA and FDAI. A profit-sharing approach was identified and agreed to remunerate efforts at both levels. Volunteer SHG will then assign its store manager and storekeeper as laid out in the business operation plan for its operation.

“This business will help us a lot. Everyday people need clean drinking water. And every day is a challenge for most households. We know that the rainwater is not as clean anymore. But we have no choice but to use it”, said Lilibeth Lalangan, the CAWOFS President.

Now, with the operation of the water refilling business, members of the Volunteer SHG will have another source of income while providing access to clean drinking water for the community.

“With the increased knowledge of the CLA officers and members, combined with that of the BLGU leaders, Caimpugan is now more prepared to minimize or prevent the disastrous effect of flooding in our barangay”, said Barangay Councilor Annabelle Semana.

For Barangay Councilor Vilma Malinao who is also a CLA leader, “the water refilling business is CAWOFS’ way to help the community have access to safe drinking water at an affordable price. Water can sustain us even when flooding occurs. This also means additional income for our members. We are thankful for the I Respond 2 Project, to KNH, Action Against Hunger and FDAI”.


Written by Genaro Sanchez for Action Against Hunger. Edited by Joyce Sandajan.

I-RESPOND PHASE 2: STRENGTHENING COMMUNITY-BASED AND MULTI-STAKEHOLDER APPROACH TO DISASTER RISK GOVERNANCE

No matter the magnitude and scale of a disaster, the people in the community are always the first to deal with its impact. Thus, it is imperative for people in the community to be well-equipped, not only to respond to, but more so to prepare for disaster risks that they face in their communities. While it is the primary responsibility of government and state actors to uphold people’s right to life and safety and to be protected from any forms of threat, may it be natural or human-induced, people in the community also have the right to develop their capacities to contribute to the process of community resilience building.

The second phase of the I-RESPOND project, implemented by the Action Against Hunger and in partnership with the Kindernothilfe (KNH), seeks to contribute towards this process of resilience building by enabling community-based and multi-stakeholder approach to disaster risk governance. Building on the gains of I-RESPOND Phase 1, wherein 25 Civil Society Organization (CSO) partners of KNH were capacitated to conduct Participatory Capacity and Vulnerability Assessment (PCVA) and Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) Planning in their covered barangays in the Philippines, I-RESPOND Phase 2 seeks to raise the stakes among different DRRM actors in the community to engage in participatory and inclusive risk governance.

Participants of the Training on Good Governance in DRRM of Brgy. Dualing, Aleosan, N.
Cotabato learn about the basic concepts in DRRM. (Photos by Louielyn Morada)

In partnership with 7 out of 25 CSOs from Phase 1, namely Balay Rehabilitation Center, Inc., BULAK Kabataan, Inc., Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Sexual Abuse (CPTCSA), Foundation for the Development of Agusanons, Inc. (FDAI), Lakas ng mga Ina, Kabataan, at Sambayanan (LIKAS) Federation, Inc., Self-Help Approach and Rights-based Environment, Inc. (SHARE), and the Tribal Leaders Development Foundation, Inc. (TLDFI), I-RESPOND Phase 2 will focus on capacitating community-based organizations such as Self-Help Groups (SheGs), and Cluster Level Associations (CLAs) in 7 areas in Mindanao and Luzon to collaborate with and influence their respective local government units in disaster risk governance processes. This affirms the fact that members of at-risk communities, including the most vulnerable groups, must be able to participate in decision-making processes and collective action in DRRM through their organizations. Upholding the provisions of the Philippine DRRM Act of 2010 (R.A. 10121), CSO’s must have an enabling space within the local DRRM councils/committees in order to represent their sectors and communities in assessing disaster risks, formulating, budgeting for and implementing DRRM plans, as well as in setting in place mechanisms for accountability.

The Philippines have seen significant developments in policies and practice in DRRM in the past decade. It is similarly so at the international level, with the advent of post-2015 agenda such as the Sendai Framework for DRR, the Sustainable Development Goals, Paris Agreement, and the World Humanitarian Summit. With these in mind, project partners also hope for I-RESPOND 2 to enable the process of reflecting on these developments using the experiences at the local level. Because more than the question of whether these contributed positively on the lives of people in the communities, is the question of how we worked together towards a safe and resilient community. ●

TUKLAS INNOVATORS CONVERGE IN PASUNDAYAG NATIONAL FAIR

The Pasundayag National Innovation Fair was held last March 29, 2019 at Crowne Plaza Manila Galleria, Pasig City in celebration of the different innovations on disaster resiliency that were crafted and honed for the entire year under the Tuklas project. This marks as the culminating event for the project as several Pasundayag Fairs were held across Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

Dennis O’Brien of Plan International Philippines, Kei Valmoria of the Citizens’ Disaster Response Center (CDRC), Suresanathan Murugesu of Action Against Hunger, and Tim Bishop of CARE USA formally opened the national fair through a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The event was graced by the presence of various innovators, agencies, non-government organizations, investors, and both local and international stakeholders and supporters.

In his closing remarks, Deputy Country Director of Action Against Hunger Philippines Mission, Mr. Suresanathan Murugesu, left the participating innovators an inspiring reminder to keep working hard and continuously improve disaster preparedness strategies through their crafts. “Help us bring these ideas to the communities for replication,” said Mr. Murugesu.

Action Against Hunger, together with Plan International, CARE Philippines, and Citizens’ Disaster Response Center put great efforts and focus on implementing the Mindanao Lab. The Tuklas Innovation Labs was supported by UK Aid, Start Network, and CDAC Network. ●

10 TUKLAS INNOVATIONS GET UNDERWAY IN MINDANAO

After a series of reviews done by the Tungo sa Kahandaan ng Pilipinas (TUKLAS) Innovation Lab, 40 out of 72 innovations were chosen for the final review. The final 40 and their ideas are now being supported as TUKLAS Innovators and Innovation Teams.

10 of these 40 innovations are now in the stage of developing its prototype in some Mindanao communities. These prototypes are: 1) DisP(ner) Bag, a weather-proof emergency bag that can be used for multiple purposes, such as a floater or tent; 2) Popularizing Indigenous Early Warning Systems, a system of documenting and popularizing indigenous knowledge on early warning for disaster risk reduction; 3) Bamboo River Embankment, a bamboo dike embankment to mitigate the impact of frequent flooding and soil erosion; 4) Matigam Kaw Iso: Mandaya Children’s Active Participation, an innovation on encouraging participation of children from hazard-prone, indigenous people communities in disaster risk management through a child-to-child approach; 5) Formulating Innovative Resiliency reduction program and manual; 6) Disaster Resiliency Fund, a community- managed, savings program for disaster preparedness activities of coastal communities; 7) People’s Initiative and Involvement in the Development of Technology (PINDOT), an offline mobile application for emergency reporting, and mapping of vulnerable families; 8) Promoting Cultural Innovation for Increased Resilience of Children, a facilitation of peace modules and cultural exchange to support the recovery of children affected by armed-conflict; 9) Growing Food, Saving Lives, use of urban gardening as an approach to community building and coping with post-disaster trauma among internally displaced persons from Marawi City; and 10) Early-Warning and Early Response Mechanisms for Armed-Conflict, a community-based mechanism to prevent and mitigate impact of armed-conflict and other human-induced disasters. In Filipino, ‘tuklas’ means ‘discover’, thus the TUKLAS Innovation Lab aims to identify innovative ideas and entrepreneurs across the country.

Hosted by Plan International and in partnership with Action Against Hunger, CARE, and the Citizens Disaster Response Centre (CDRC) which is a local civil society organization (CSO), TUKLAS has a collective experience of 174 years working from within the communities in the Philippines to improve emergency preparedness and response.

The TUKLAS Innovation Lab reaches out through networks of CSOs, community groups and leaders, businesses, academics, inventors and inspired youth to identify, test, and refine innovative ideas and methods to strengthen communities’ response and preparedness to disaster across the country, taking a bottom-up or user-centered approach to nurture, test, and scale promising models that will address gaps to improve emergency preparedness in the disaster prone country. ●

VALUING PWD’S CAPACITIES IN MANAGING RESILIENT LIVELIHOOD OPPORTUNITIES

Epitacio, 53 years old and a father of three, has been living with optimism despite his physical deformities. He is a polio survivor, a disease that attacks the nervous system leading to paralysis. Despite his condition, Epitacio was determined to live like a normal person and strived hard to provide food and other basic needs to his family. He is an elected councilor of Barangay Balete and the federation president of Bayabas Special Persons Organization (BASPO).

“My husband is a good provider because he accepts carpentry works, shoe repair and did hair cutting just to provide our needs. Even both of us are working, still it is difficult to catch up the needs of our children,” says Morninggrace, wife of Epitacio.

As voice of persons-with-disabilities, he started the lobbying for an income generating project for BASPO years ago. He talked with

government agencies and private organizations about the condition of his members and their hopes to have an extra source of income. But because of limited funds, his requests were denied. Action Against Hunger introduced the concept of resilient livelihood under the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management – Climate Change Adaptation (DRRM-CCA) project funded by Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID). BASPO was chosen based on their identified needs, existing capacities, availability of managed projects and recommendations of the Local Chief Executive.

“It was our first time to be involved in discussion like this asking about our needs, views and opinions on our desired livelihood. We

appreciate consultations and sharing like these as we realized that we are part of the community also, not as hopeless people but capable individuals that can contribute in any community undertakings,” explains Rene Dumanhog, treasurer of BASPO. After exploring various livelihood options suitable for persons-with-disabilities, a community-based mushroom production was chosen and formally started last April 19, 2018. As pilot, 30 members and immediate family members of BASPO were trained on tissue culture, spawn making, substrate making, bagging, monitoring and harvesting.

To date, an aggregate volume of 13 kilos have been harvested out of the 390 fruiting bags and gained about Php 2,600.00. Members

including Epitacio are appreciative of their efforts because they are beginning to savour the fruits of their labor. Initial profit was used for motorcycle maintenance that has been mobilized for rice straw gathering and other operational expenses like replenishment of fruiting bags.

To ensure resiliency during emergencies, a Community-Managed Savings and Credit Association (CoMSCA) was adopted to encourage the culture of savings among members. Part of the savings mechanism is to establish a social fund that will be pulled out in times of need aside from the individual savings. Epitacio further says that “I am hopeful that this livelihood project will help us augment our income to and to increase our participation as vulnerable group in disaster risk reduction activities of the municipality.”

Action Against Hunger is working closely with the Municipal Mayor’s Office, Municipal Agriculture Office and Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office (MSWDO) to expand the production facility particularly the construction of laboratory, incubation and sterilization areas. Trainings on financial management, product development and roll-out of savings mechanism are also pipelined to be implemented by month of May 2018 aside from marketing and product development activities. ●