When Typhoon Vamco, named strongest typhoon of 2020, affected Northern Luzon, many from the municipalities of Amulung and Gattaran in Cagayan lost their homes and livelihood due to widespread flooding. Families and local governments of Cagayan and other nearby provinces are still trying to get back on their feet even months after the disaster.
Even before the disaster, ACCORD already is present in the area because of the “Improved Adaptation Capacities of At-risk Coastal Communities in Indonesia and the Philippines through Inclusive Community-based Actions and Learning Project” supported by Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund (ASB), with funding from the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development. ACCORD's presence through the climate change adaptation – disaster risk reduction (CCA-DRR) projects in the municipalities hardest hit by the flood facilitated the delivery of urgent humanitarian needs of vulnerable families, including those with members who have functioning limitations and were most affected by the disaster. Alongside relief distribution initiatives, CCA-DRR activities such as community risk assessments, planning, and livelihood assistance were also conducted.
Understanding Risks to Strengthen Climate Resilience Capacities
In recent years, the communities observed that disaster events are becoming more frequent, and they find themselves struggling to cope with emerging hazards. Having experienced the recent flood and with COVID-19 pandemic still threatening them, the communities are striving to recover. They find the Project’s activities very timely and relevant in helping them not only in their recovery but also in preparing for and anticipating the possible scenarios in the future, discussing options and solutions on how to prevent and mitigate the likely impacts of disasters in their communities, and adapt with the changing climate that they have been experiencing. The participatory community risk assessments conducted helped the communities to better understand the risks they are facing—an important step in collectively developing their climate resilience action plans and disaster risk reduction plans.
“The best lesson I learned from the community risk assessment (CRA) sessions are the good practices, learning more about our risks, and important knowledge about disasters and proper management and planning in how to mitigate these hazards,” said Bernard Laida, 71, a barangay leader and CRA participant.
During the training sessions, persons from different sectoral groups were invited to participate to further widen and deepen the perspectives of all participants, as well as gather diverse experiences and opinions from them. The inputs from older persons, persons with disabilities, women, and youth’s participation were pertinent to forming a more comprehensive view of the risks at the communities and developing more inclusive measures to address these risks.
“As a senior citizen and barangay counselor, I am glad to have been taught these and have the opportunity to teach these too to our barangay members in the future,” Laida also said, emphasizing the importance of passing on the knowledge on disaster risk reduction to all of the community members.
The community members were participative and active in attending these trainings, so much so that despite the limited capacity and strict safety protocols, many of them still wanted to join in and participate in the sessions.
“Having high capacity and low vulnerability is very essential because this would help to lessen the risk of the hazard and disaster that would occur to a community,” said Claire Vista, one of the youth present during the CRA sessions. “As a youth, it is important for me to join the training because I am a member of the community, I lived and grew here,” she adds.
Bringing back life through livelihood
Another important support that the Project has provided the livelihood inputs to the project areas that are also Vamco-affected communities. Since farming is the main livelihood source, communities were given garden tools, seeds, and seedlings to propagate in communal gardens.
Some groups were able to harvest, which augment their food supply during the pandemic, while some earned additional income from their produce. However, due to harsh weather conditions during November and December, many of these seedlings were not able to survive. Currently, new seeds and seedlings are being procured to continue the garden livelihood project.
Imelda Bautista, a community leader in Barangay Baraoidan shares the hardships brought by the recent flood and the COVID-19 pandemic. Many, who have lost their jobs and livelihood assets, are struggling to make ends meet on a daily basis. She sees her role in prioritizing and supporting projects and activities that will allow each of the most vulnerable households in their community to pick themselves back up through livelihood.
“My contribution to the change and growth of our community is to create projects such as gardening, poultry and livestock raising, and other activities that will give our community members a better life,” said Imelda Bautista, 65.
Currently, the communities are prioritizing opening their own bank accounts, conducting group meetings, and creating policies to create better livelihood opportunities for their community members. They are also exploring how they will procure equipment such as reapers, which will greatly help improve their farming strategy.
These project activities also impacted the community members’ and leaders’ outlook and perspectives toward climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction and leadership. Many were grateful to have undergone the training, which helped them appreciate and put into better use the other assistance such as livelihood support and WASH items that they received after Vamco’s onslaught. The trainings also helped local officials appreciate the importance of participatory processes involving vulnerable sectors especially in planning activities.
“We have to be alert all the time especially during times of disasters, and we should have contingency plans to make sure that everyone is safe and from hazards,” said Rizalyn Viernes, barangay chairperson of Kapanikian in Sta. Ana Cagayan, who is also a participant of the CRA training.
She adds that her role as a woman is important in the community as she can now share her newfound knowledge with her barangay officials and community members.
They are also grateful for their newfound knowledge as this will aid them in creating more inclusive disaster risk reduction plans and measures to prevent any future disasters.
“The lessons I learned from the training sessions are important. As a youth, it is important that we have this knowledge so we can also help in our communities. I also believe that as the younger generation, we are next in line in taking care of our community and environment towards a better life,” said Jaymar Ballad, one of the youth present in the CRA training sessions.
(Article and photos are provided by ACCORD Inc.)