Most of the humanitarian organizations who gave different dole-out assistance have already packed up and left the areas. The people’s initial needs were met, but not their long-term needs. People are still struggling to find their next meal since most of their lost assets are not yet fully replaced.
The REAP Livelihoods program is an answer to this existing concern. World Renew, in partnership with local government units both in the barangay and municipal levels, is trying to fill the gap by contributing to the livelihoods restoration of those families affected by the typhoon.
Our journey during the initial months was not a walk in the park. People always compared our programs and interventions to a humanitarian approach. They wanted their needs to be met faster and with fewer meetings. They often asked, “Why conduct trainings, and why do we need to contribute?” They shared with us that previous INGOs just gave them assistance - so why do we have so many processes?
The problem was addressed through constant discussion with the community leaders and members. We have full time field staff that visit the communities eight hours a day, establishing rapport with the people and getting to know more about their communities. After ten long months of “getting to know each other”, the people are ready to work with us. They are now excited to plan and work together to meet their needs.
World Renew facilitated a participatory planning workshop for community-based organizations (CBOs) where each CBO was encouraged to draw their own dreams of their communities. They also took part in a workshop where they identified their own strengths, weaknesses, limitations, and opportunities. It was emphasized that World Renew is a supporting agency that will assist them in reaching their dreams. This helped increase peoples’ sense of ownership over the program.
While many communities received some support from other agencies right after Yolanda, what they received was often not enough to fully sustain them in their livelihoods. World Renew, through the help of the government of Canada, allocated funds to fill the gap. This assistance, known as cost-shared inputs, helped to provide community members with what they lack. All assistance was provided through their respective CBO. The amount of inputs is “paid back”, not to us but to their CBO. This is to cultivate a sense of ownership and pride. Ownership because they paid it back, and pride because their CBO will have their own funds to respond to future needs.
Empowering and Protecting Livelihood Through Savings
“We now stopped borrowing money from micro-finance institutions (MFIs) because we already have our own money. In MFIs, the processing of a loan is longer and there are lots of documents needed. Moreover, our paid interest goes with them, but in our CoMSCA (Community Managed Savings and Credit Association) all earnings will be divided amongst us,” said Mr. Beny Binas, the chairperson of the first CoMSCA organized by World Renew in the Concepcion town of Iloilo. With 18 active, they already have fifty one thousand pesos (CDN $1400) savings after only 11 weeks of operation. People, regardless of their economic status, can save. Savings is not just about how much money a person can save; it is a discipline to put aside some money on a regular basis for future needs.
Savings is not just about how much money a person can save; it is a discipline to put aside some money on a regular basis for future needs.
“I learned to appreciate the importance of savings. In our own CoMSCA group, borrowing money is easier. I already borrowed money to buy some fishing gear for my husband. When I finished paying it, I borrowed again to renew our expired fishing permit in the town. We received what we needed, unlike in MFIs that deduct the interest at the beginning, so what you can get is no longer enough for your needs,” shared Mrs. Nora Bantayanon.
There are already 21 CBOs in ten barangays who have undergone CoMSCA orientation. 15 of them have received formal training. A total of 12 CBOs, as of June 30, 2016 already have their own savings groups. Of the members, 142 of them are women and 29 are men.
“CoMSCA is ours; we decide how much service charge we will ask from the members and at the end of the year all those gains will be divided amongst us. Getting a loan is fast and very accessible.”
Training Is Empowering
No training, no inputs! This is an agreement we have with communities. To some, training is a waste of time. “We already know our livelihoods and what we need are inputs, not training. Besides, INGOs just gave us inputs before without training, so why spend money for training? Why not just convert the funds for training to more inputs?”
These are some of the challenges we faced as we encouraged the people to value the trainings and participate. The initial months were difficult. Aside from the questions raised above, many of them prioritized fishing or going to their farms over attending trainings. But, since they needed to replace their lost assets and they needed new inputs, many of them were “forced” to join the training. After training, they themselves testified that they have learned a lot and see the importance of these types of projects. “I’ve been a fisherman for years but it is only now that I understand that corals are not rocks but living things and an important part of fish habitat,” said one beneficiary. “We need to protect them.”
Another beneficiary said that “as farmers, we usually expect to harvest more without minding the effect of commercial fertilizers in our land. World Renew taught us natural farming and the importance of being aware of the condition of our environment. We need to consider restoring our land for our children’s future. Thank you for waking us up through sustainable agriculture training.”
Trainings were conducted in partnership with different stakeholders. The local government units (LGU) and Department of Agriculture (DA-LGU) were very much involved as we worked with the farmers and fisher folks. We also tapped the expertise of the local academia, like Central Philippines University (CPU) and Northern Iloilo Polytechnic State College (NIPSC), about natural livestock raising, seaweeds and oyster production. Local NGOs, like MASIPAG (Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura) are training our partner in organic and natural farming.
Training is time consuming to some, but to those who attended the training, it was an opportunity for them to learn new things and be reminded of what they knew before without going back to school. “Din ka pa sina? Nakatuon na kita, libre pa pagkaon kag plete ta, salamat gid sang madamo.” (Where can you find this? We learned new things and they gave us free meals, and our transportation costs are even subsidized. Thank you very much.)
World Renew Philippines