It’s Raining! March 18,2018
At last the rains have begun….maybe. Although this is the time of year when they should come: Easter is the time for planting the primary maize crop for the year. But no-one is sure any more. I remember when I first came out here as a VSO in 1976 the farmers were saying, even then, that the climate was changing. They could no longer be confident the rains would come when they should. El Nino droughts were happening more frequently…every 3 to 4 years instead of 7 years, giving farmers no time to recover from one drought to the next.
The majority of the farmers in Damulog, Bukidnon on the island of Mindanao are very poor living on less than £2/day. Bukidnon is the 4th poorest Province in the Philippines. They borrow from the middle traders to buy the seed and other inputs they need to plant. The loan is usually two to three times the actual cost of the seeds etc but they have no choice and they are obligated to sell their harvest back to the trader they borrowed from… at a lower than market price. Their collateral is their land. If the rains fail…or come at the wrong time and the crop fails…and they can’t pay back the lender they will forfeit the land becoming day labourers and sliding deeper into poverty.
To make matters worse, despite the Philippines being the most typhoon prone country in the world, the island of Mindanao has always been typhoon free. That is why Del Monte made Bukidnon the site of its pineapple plantation when they moved their production from Hawaii in the 1930s later adding plantations of bananas and papaya…..that is until the last few years when super typhoon Haiyan and Bopha tracked further south than usual, devastating the eastern and northern seaboards of Mindanao causing massive destruction. In the past few months tropical storm Temba battered Marawi which is still recovering from a 5-month siege by ISIS inspired extremists. Evacuation centres were flooded and landslides washed houses and people away with the loss of over 120 lives. Mindanao can no longer claim to be typhoon free. Everything changes.
Climate change is affecting the poorest the most. Land is being concentrated in fewer and fewer families as the changing weather creates increased risk of crop failure and uncertainty. With little future on the land the young are moving to the coastal cities where they join the vast numbers squatting along the rivers and coastal margins and as storms and rising seas create increased flooding their lives become increasingly precarious.
In a very small way MuCAARD* teams are trying to help.
It has been a busy couple of months visiting MuCAARD member teams. Some of you may have seen the photos on the MuCAARD-UK Facebook page of the work of COSEED reforesting the mangroves, protecting the coastline from tsunamis and helping farmers redeem their land through a Land Redemption programme we support. We met 4 of the beneficiaries of this programme and they all told us how this programme has given them hope that they will, once again, benefit from the harvest of their land.
Just one story:
Reminda Tingson: widow, 4 children
In 2007 her child working in Manila and was emergency admitted to hospital with meningitis.
Cost of hospitalization: Php 100,000 (£1400 or more than her annual income)
She borrowed or ‘Prenda’ Php45,000 using 2has. of coconuts as collateral with no time limit to repay.
Prenda means: 100% of the income from the coconuts goes to the lender
Loan has to be paid in full in a single payment
In 2014 Reminda approached CoSEED for help to buy back her land but they had no funds at that time. But it made them realise the extent of this problem. They sent a proposal to MuCAARD-UK and we were able to give a small grant.
In 2016 CoSEED gave her the Php45,000 to repay the loan and a formal agreement signed agreeing that:
25% of the harvest retained by Reminda
25% towards repayment of the loan
10% to hire individual to monitor the coconuts
15% Federation of CoSEED Community Organisation to build up capital for projects
25% CoSEED staff /office costs and expand programmes
Net income from first harvest: Php 5833.30 of which Php2916.66 is down payment on loan. Coconuts are harvested 3x pa. This means that in less than 6 years the loan will have repaid. Reminda has been unable to pay it off over the past 12 years because the lenders will only accept it as a lump sum.
Over the past 12 years she has earnt money from taking in sewing selling slipper and bags.
Now Reminda is helping one of her children to buy a small house and has small capital to start up a dried fish business.
MuCAARD-UK has supported this project for the past 3 years.
BUT THEN….Romy got a small wound on his lower leg and ignored it until a temperature of 39.7c meant emergency admission to a hospital with cellulitis, for 4 days of intravenous antibiotics. Two weeks later he’s much better, still taking medicines, but slowly building up his energy and getting mobile again. Maybe now he’ll be more careful of his diet as being borderline diabetic means he can’t eat as many bananas as he likes!
I have been helping out the MuCAARD staff responding to the ongoing crisis in Marawi. Romy, when he hasn’t been in hospital, has been spreading the word about the BISAP PuLPuG/GRACE health scheme. One village organised a meeting at which over 850 people came. The programme has now been officially adopted by the local officials and will begin operating in the next few months.
In the meantime my okra plants are flowering, tomatoes are growing and beans have been planted. May the rains continue!
*MuCAARD is a Christian/Muslim charity doing a tree planting programme