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The Family Farm in Dinagat Island

It started drizzling when husband and wife Francisco, 40, and Jean, 33, finished weeding the vegetable plots at their two-hectare family farm up a hill in Brgy. Sto. Nino, Libjo, Dinagat Island. Francisco’s mother, Anastacia, 63, rushed and joined them to take shelter under a tent where their farmhouse used to stand before Typhoon Odette (Rai) flattened it to the ground. The lumber piled beside the tent was the only remaining reminder of the severe damage that the typhoon caused to their house and their farm. All the crops they lost were replaced with bananas, coconuts, corn, rice, cassava, taro, sweet potatoes, and various vegetables.

Jean shared that it took them a long time to regain the farm’s productivity. The flood and mud washed out all their stored seeds and farm tools. They had to build a temporary shelter down at the village to be close to their relatives and to any assistance they could access. It took more than a month before help came because the roads were difficult to pass due to the mud and debris. Within that period, their family relied on the remaining undamaged root crops they gathered from their farm for food.

When the government released financial assistance worth 5,000 pesos (100 USD), they immediately bought what they needed to restart their production.

“We couldn’t continue to wait for more help because our farm was the only source of income and food we had,” shared Jean.

However, everything they needed was sourced outside of the island. The difficulty of transport raised the prices of commodities, and the family could only do so much with the amount they received. They started replanting bananas from the seedlings of mother plants that survived the typhoon. They also made a small garden and grew vegetables for consumption. On September 2022, they harvested 140 kilos of bananas that sold for 35 pesos (70 US cents) per kilo. Even with this income, they knew it would take a considerable amount of money to get the farm back to produce crops for the market.

Then on October 2022, they were invited to a consultation and were selected as participants in the livelihood recovery project implemented by CARE and its local partner, ACCORD. Through the support of the US Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (USAID-BHA), their household received 15,000 pesos (300 USD) as assistance for them to use in their livelihood recovery.

They used the amount to hire farm workers to help them clean and prepare the soil for planting. Francisco bought fertilizer and vegetable seeds and started planting them for consumption and selling in the market. They planted okra, sweet potatoes, string beans, green peppers, snow cabbage (pechay), Malabar spinach (alugbati), and spring onions. These vegetables are cultivated easily. Hence, they were able to harvest and earn 2,000 pesos (40 USD) in the first picking.

Francisco picks okra for their family’s dinner. | M. Norbe

“It felt good to be able to earn again after the losses we had because of (typhoon) Odette,” said Anastacia, who missed the time when they were netting at least 4,000 pesos (80 USD) per week with their vegetables, corn, root crops, and bananas.

Anastacia (left) and Jean (right) show the vegetables that they grow in the family farm.

But with the state of their farm slowly returning to what it was before the onslaught, the family was hopeful that they’d be able to recover. They were expecting a massive harvest of sweet potatoes in December with an estimated selling point of 50 pesos (1 USD) per kilo.

“When we have saved enough, we plan to rebuild our farmhouse and return to living and farming here”, said Francisco who shared the difficulty of going uphill to the farm and downhill to their house at the village every day.

This story is part of the “Emergency Assistance to Support Local Recovery Capacity of Families and Communities Affected by Typhoon Odette”, an emergency response project funded by the US Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (USAID-BHA) and jointly implemented by Action Against Hunger Philippines and CARE Philippines and its local partner, ACCORD Incorporated.

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