Women and girls in the Philippines are in need of your support.

Disparities in Diabetes: Applying intersectionality to understand diabetes

  • CARE Philippines
  • Blog, Gender, Gender, Healthy Mothers & Children, Other Topic, Uncategorized

Written by: Juin Ancha (CARE Philippines)

November 14 — World Diabetes Day. Various health organizations and groups all over the country urge the Filipino community to take active measures to prevent this life-threatening illness. However, simple lifestyle and dietary changes may not be enough to comprehensively address diabetes, especially within the context of vulnerable populations. Pervasive gender norms and roles are also factors that influence the health and well-being outcomes of Filipino women and men. As we commemorate World Diabetes Day, we encourage the public to use an intersectional lens to understand diabetes.

Diabetes at a glance

Diabetes is a worldwide epidemic, and the Philippines is not exempt. According to the International Diabetes Federation, of the 64 million adults in the country, 4 million have diabetes. However, even with these high numbers, there could be more undocumented cases, specifically in low-income, rural, and armed-conflict-affected areas. Lack of health facilities in far-flung communities, lack of access to diabetes information, and lack of access to basic services continue to be major factors that prevent people, including the elderly, children, women, and men, from seeking timely health check-ups and routine monitoring. Socioeconomic constraints do not help either, and only contribute to a general reluctance among poor families to seek medical intervention.

Early detection of diabetes is hard when you are poor and internally displaced. In Lanao del Sur, many people did not know that they were diabetic until they saw CARE Philippines NCD-LOVE. NCD-LOVE was a three-year pilot project designed to introduce innovative approaches to address health issues, specifically non-communicable diseases, diabetes included. From providing technical assistance and capacity buildings to partner government stakeholders, augmenting NCD service delivery in project sites, and ensuring its sustainability through transition plans, the NCD-LOVE indeed provided strong advocacy on health and well-being. In 2023 alone, the project reached 15 municipalities in Lanao del Sur and served 7,031 patients, of which 67% were women.

Using intersectionality as lens to understanding diabetes

Lived experiences of diabetes can be best understood through an intersectional lens that considers the social identities of ordinary Filipinos. Due to deep-seated culture and gender norms, various gender biases have affected not only our behavior towards health but also our understanding of health. According to the World Health Organization, the majority of studies on NCD, diabetes included, have been undertaken on men, and women have been less diagnosed at early stages. As a result, even health interventions have placed women at the periphery of diabetes attention.

“No words could express how CARE helped us and made us happy, especially here in our community,” – shared Alma (not her real name), 58 years old, a woman with diabetes from Boganga Transitory site. That is why the NCD-LOVE project purposefully targeted not only low-income households in conflict-afflicted areas but, more importantly, women.

“We deeply appreciate the invaluable support from CARE and Abbott, which has been instrumental in propelling this NCD-LOVE program forward. Our steadfast commitment to prioritizing health and well-being remains resolute. As we look ahead, our focus remains steadfast on ensuring the sustainability of our NCD-LOVE program, guaranteeing that the progress achieved endures for the long term,” stated IPHO II.

Unlocking one of the key solutions, applying intersectionality in analyzing diabetes, opens discussions beyond the medical model of this life-threatening, non-communicable disease.

The NCD-LOVE project was funded by Abbott and the Abbott Fund.

Ten Years On: Typhoon Haiyan’s Legacy of Resilience and Renewal 

  • CARE Philippines
  • Blog, Disaster Response, Gender, Latest News & Stories, Stories of Change, Uncategorized

Written by: Reiza S. Dejito (CARE Philippines)

Ten years ago, Typhoon Haiyan, known in the Philippines as Yolanda, roared through the central islands of the archipelago. It was a storm that would go down in history as one of the most powerful typhoons ever recorded. Today, we stand a decade removed from the devastation, yet the memories remain, etched into the heart of every survivor and every humanitarian effort that rose from the rubble. Maria Theresa “Tess” Bayombong, a Program Consultant for CARE Philippines, offers a stirring retrospective of the resilience, recovery, and rebirth in the aftermath of the super typhoon. 

Tess’ Recollections: Solidarity Amidst Ruins: “When I first set foot in the typhoon-stricken village of San Miguel, Leyte, the destruction was unimaginable,” Tess begins. “But amidst this landscape of despair, what moved me were not the signs of destruction but the signs of unity and human spirit.” She witnessed a community coming together, embodying the Filipino spirit of “bayanihan”—helping hands and hopeful hearts working in unison to rebuild, even as they carried the weight of their own losses. 

In photo: Ms. Tess Bayombong

“Their gratitude for the simple necessity of roofing materials was a powerful reminder of human resilience,” Tess recalls. “Even when our resources could not reach everyone, the community took it upon themselves to share what little they had, ensuring no one was left unprotected from the elements. This collective sacrifice and kindness were truly inspiring.” 

Impact and Adaptation: The CARE Response: Tess reflects on the long-term impact Haiyan had on the people’s livelihoods, especially in areas like Leyte where coconut farming was not just a job but a way of life passed down through generations. “Seeing the women of these communities, who had lost the very tools of their trade, come together to learn new skills and rebuild their livelihoods was a testament to their indomitable will,” she notes. 

CARE’s adaptive humanitarian response played a pivotal role in this transformation. From immediate life-saving assistance to supporting long-term self-recovery, CARE’s three-phase approach was not only practical but deeply empathetic. Tess speaks proudly of the organization’s efforts in providing technical assistance, training, and financial support that empowered women and rejuvenated local economies.

Lessons Learned: Shaping Future Responses: The greatest lessons come from the hardest experiences. Tess emphasizes that the most crucial takeaway from the Typhoon Haiyan response was the effectiveness of a phased, adaptable approach in emergency response. “It was about listening to the needs of the community and responding in a way that supported not just survival but sustainable growth and self-sufficiency.” 

This experience has indelibly shaped CARE’s approach to disaster preparedness and response. Gender-responsive strategies and financial assistance have helped pave the way for a future where communities are not only ready to face emergencies but are also equipped to thrive afterward.

A Beacon of Hope for Tomorrow: As we commemorate the ten-year anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan, we don’t just look back; we look forward, carrying the lessons and stories of strength with us. Tess’ account is a beacon of hope—an illumination of the path forward marked by solidarity, resilience, and an unwavering commitment to empowerment and preparedness. 

“Typhoon Haiyan was a story of loss, but more importantly, it was a story of hope, of communities coming together, of women taking charge of their destinies, and of an organization that stood by them,” Tess concludes. “Today, we remember, we honor, and we continue to build a more resilient future.”

World Humanitarian Day 2023 Message

  • CARE Philippines
  • Blog, Featured Stories, Latest News & Stories

This message was delivered by CARE Philippines’ Program Manager for ECHO Actions, Ansherina Talavera on the Worl Humanitarian Day 2023 commemoration at the Peoples’ Palace in Cotabato City.

“Globally, and here at home, we face a new norm marked by increasingly frequent and devastating disasters. Natural hazards, armed conflict and violence, climate challenges, and environmental crises are realities that confront us now and in the future. 

As humanitarians, the context we work in and the challenges we face in delivering life-saving humanitarian aid are also evolving and becoming more complex. 

On this World Humanitarian Day, we reaffirm our commitment to the values and humanitarian principles that guide us to stand shoulder to shoulder with the communities and people we serve, no matter who, no matter where and #NoMatterWhat. 

#NoMatterWho – We commit to continue to provide humanitarian assistance without discrimination, recognizing that each life is of equal value. WE are committed to deliver humanitarian assistance regardless of nationality, religious belief, gender, class or political opinion. We reach out and provide assistance to people affected by disasters and who are most in need. 

#NoMatterWhere – We deliver humanitarian aid no matter where, giving priority to last mile communities. We remain steadfast with our mission to alleviate human suffering and provide aid where it is needed the most. We deliver support to last mile communities, the most affected, the most vulnerable, the hardest to reach, and receiving less assistance or none at all.  

#NoMatterWhat – We deliver assistance no matter what the difficulties we face. As humanitarians, we ensure the safety of staff and disaster-affected populations, and that no harm befall them. And this means careful planning, diligent implementation, and unwavering dedication to overcome these challenges, to provide humanitarian assistance – no matter what.

In the context of localisation, #NoMatterWhat signifies our resolve to invest in strengthening local capacities, ensuring that the burden of risks is not shifted to local partners and humanitarian actors.

Placing people and communities at the core of our humanitarian work, and our unshakeable commitment to uphold the principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence, we have developed strong partnerships with local NGOs, and key duty-bearers, foremost the government at local, subnational and national levels, and the donor community. As we face more complex situations ahead, we will hold on to the humanitarian principles as the solid foundation of our partnerships with rights-holders and duty-bearers alike, believing in everyone’s humanity. #NoMatterWhere, #NoMatterWho and #NoMatterWhat.  

CARE and its partner ACCORD set up a photo gallery in commemoration of WHD2023 in Cotabato City.

Building a Safer Home after an Earthquake: Jemalin’s Story

Jemalin and her husband Mark were all smiles after reinforcing their house with Build Back Safer techniques. (Photo: CORDIS RDS)

“It is important to make our house stronger and well-built so that if ever an earthquake or typhoon strikes, it will be sturdy due to its good foundation. It is also crucial for a house to have good bracings and blockings so that it will be secure against quakes and strong winds”.

This was what 36-year-old Jemalin shared. Her family’s house was damaged by the magnitude 7.3 earthquake in Tayum, Abra in July last year.

Their house was made of semi-concrete materials with a poor foundation. So, when they felt the first tremors of the quake, she immediately grabbed her children and moved out of the house. The earthquake cracked their house’s walls and rendered it unsafe to live in.

The NDRRMC reported a total of 574,367 individuals or 155,911 families were affected by the earthquake. A total of 12,802 damaged houses were reported: 12,645 partially damaged and 157 fully damaged. And many of the affected stayed in open areas exposed to the monsoon rains, in evacuation centers, or with host families as their houses were not habitable or were in unsafe areas.

A makeshift shelter made from GI sheets replaced the damaged house of a family in Tayum, Abra after the 7.2 magnitude earthquake. (Photo: MNorbe, CARE Philippines)

For Jemalin and her family, the greatest impact on their lives was the loss of income of her husband because construction works stopped for months and the main irrigation canal for their fields was destroyed so all rice fields were not planted for one cropping period. Much more, it was planting time during the occurrence of the earthquake, so all the preparation done was wasted.

She is a Barangay Health Worker (BHW) earning Php 700 in a month.  Aside from being a housekeeper, she raises pigs and do farm works to add to their family income. She is married to Mark, 42 years old, a farmer and laborer for construction works. They have three children ages 15, 13 and 9. They are studying in a nearby school, yet they have to spend daily for their fare.

When the team of CARE Philippines and its local partner, the Cordillera Disaster Response and Development Services (CORDIS RDS) arrived in their barangay through the REACH 3 project, she volunteered to join the team after a courtesy meeting with barangay officials. Together with other two barangay health worker, rain or shine they assisted the project team roam the barangay for damage assessment and interviews up to late afternoon. She was thankful that her house was also visited and interviewed. Her family was qualified as a beneficiary.  

During beneficiary meetings to prepare for the actual construction, she helped in mobilizing other beneficiaries to attend. Being a Barangay Health Worker, she was able to provide necessary information and shared the situations of the other families in her barangay. She got more inclined during the
discussions of the core shelter design and Build Back Safer Orientation. She studied the core shelter design and frequently asked questions on behalf of other beneficiaries who were timid to ask, she became the spokesperson of other beneficiaries.

During the implementation, Roving Shelter Teams (SRT) were organized to help the staff, especially in mobilization and ensuring that theBuild Back Safer (BBS) techniques are observed. She was chosen as a member of the SRT and she was glad to do her assignments and always visited the ongoing construction
works. She frequently argued with the carpenters who were not following the BBS techniques. She persistently provided updates and feedback to the project team especially the problems that needed to be addressed.  As a member of the SRT, she listened to the troubles of the beneficiaries concerning their

To be chosen as an SRT member, she earned the trust of other beneficiaries and gained knowledge on building a simple yet durable house that she would share with her family and other community members.   Through her efforts and the persistence of the SRT, 30 units of core shelter with BBS techniques were built in her barangay.

Being a core shelter beneficiary, her family is starting to regain courage and is more hopeful to recover and face the challenges of life. For now, she feels protected and happy that her family is together in their new house.

With support from EU Civil Protection & Humanitarian Aid, the #REACH3 Project through provided Build Back Safer and Better Shelter training and support to build core shelters to families whose houses were totally damaged by the #AbraEarthquake.

This is part of the ‘Response to the Unmet Humanitarian Needs of the Most Vulnerable Populations in Mindanao and the Province of Abra Affected by Conflict, Disasters, and the COVID-19 Pandemic’ or REACH 3 Project implemented by ACCORD Incorporated, Action Against Hunger Philippines, CARE Philippines, Cordillera Disaster Response and Development Services, Community Organizers Multiversity – CO Multiversity, IDEALS, Inc., Nisa Ul Haqq Fi Bangsamoro, Oxfam Pilipinas and United Youth of the Philippines-Women; and funded by the EU Civil Protection & Humanitarian Aid.

Cargill, CARE, partners lead the replanting of 100,000 coconuts in typhoon-affected Bohol

Cargill, CARE and local partners are taking bold steps in leading the coconut-planting community in Bohol to rehabilitate their typhoon-damaged farms, rebuild their livelihoods and ensure good future for their children.

MANILA, PHILIPPINES (March 16, 2022) – With the goal to replant 100,000 coconut seedlings in Bohol, Cargill, CARE Philippines and local partners kick off the RISE Coco (Recovery Intervention for Severely Affected Coconut Farming Communities of Bohol by Super Typhoon Odette) project with a commemorative tree-planting ceremony in Brgy. Cabanugan, municipality of San Isidro.

Super typhoon Odette (Rai) felled more than 10 million coconut trees in the country and gravely affected the copra industry. San Isidro is one of the municipalities that suffered a devastating economic loss with 130,000 felled coconut trees. Most of these trees had produced copra for over 50 years, causing uncertainty to coconut farming families in the municipality.

“Sixty percent of my constituents are coconut farmers dependent on the coconut industry. This project has given them hope to persevere for their children who will benefit from the replanting of coconuts on their farms,” Mayor Diosdado Gementiza said.

100 coconut seedlings were carefully selected from the farmer-managed nursery in the barangay and were planted during the ceremony. These were part of over 20,000 coconut seed nuts and seedlings propagated and prepared for planting across 10 nurseries in partner farming communities in San Isidro, Calape, Catigbian and Loon municipalities. The remaining seed nuts will be consolidated in the coming months, with propagated seedlings to be planted at the coconut farms of partner farmers to reach the 100,000-tree mark by the end of the year.

The RISE Coco project focuses on rehabilitating 700 hectares of coconut farms by replacing the damaged coconut trees in farms managed by 1,000 farming households from the four municipalities in Bohol. This is being done through farmer-led propagation of seed nuts in community-based seedbeds and nurseries, farmer training on sustainable agriculture, provision of alternative livelihoods while waiting for the coconut trees to bear fruit, and establishment of farmer cooperatives for improved access to markets and corporate buyers.

At its core, Cargill is committed to building resilient agricultural communities and helping farmers thrive. RISE Coco underpins that commitment by creating connections that advance the productivity and profitability of Filipino farmers. As Cargill gears up to mark its 75th year of operations in the Philippines, it is more determined to accelerate its efforts to create more value for farmers and support a more sustainable local coconut industry.

Photo: Cargill’s Jonathan Sumpaico signs the tree guard post that protects the coconut he planted at the planting ceremony.

Jonathan Sumpaico, Cargill’s Copra and Palm Origination Commercial Director, added, “Cargill is committed to improving the livelihood of communities where we operate while meeting the increasing demand for sustainable coconut oil. We are proud to partner with CARE Philippines in the RISE Coco project to ensure coconut farmers who have been affected by the typhoon will rebuild their livelihoods, in a safe, responsible, and sustainable way, and continue to benefit as our partners for economic development.”

RISE Coco is a partnership project with CARE Philippines, with active participation from Cargill employees across all project areas. With the project, Cargill is creating sustainable value that is aligned with the national thrust to revitalize the coconut industry as outlined in the Philippine Coconut Industry Roadmap 2021-2040. It is implemented in collaboration with the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), which has provided technical assistance through its Bohol Division Office to ensure alignment with PCA standards; and the Cebu-Bohol Relief and Rehabilitation Center (CRRC), which supports CARE in carrying out the project on the ground.

CARE Country Director David Gazashvili (3rd from left) with CARE and CRRC project implementation team

David Gazashvili, CARE’s Country Director shared that the financial and technical oversight of Cargill, the established partnership with CRRC, the working relationship with the PCA and the support of the local government units have paved the way for the upscaling of the project. 

 “We also commend the efforts of our partner communities who are now managing their nurseries, learning valuable good agriculture practices from trainings and applying these in the rehabilitation of their farms and livelihood and sustaining it for their children,” he added.

Photo: Bernie F. Cruz, PCA National Administrator, addresses the coconut farmers and other attendees at the planting ceremony.

Meanwhile, PCA National Administrator Bernie F. Cruz advised the coconut farmers to diversify their income from coconut by producing copra and other by-products such as charcoal, coco peat and coco coir from the husk, among others. He also recommended that farmers practice multi-cropping or inter-cropping. “Farmers would be able to augment their income by planting high-value crops or cash crops especially at times when copra prices are low,” he said.

The activity was attended by the local government officials, municipal agriculture officers, barangay officials from other communities, community leaders and men and women farmers.

CARE, partner NISA deliver learning materials to a conflict-affected elementary school in Basilan

Lorna, 51, carefully checks the foldable tables, chairs, writing, and printing supplies, visual materials, a sound system, printer, and a laptop delivered to Ulitan Elementary School, where she is the teacher-in-charge. Some of their pupils and their parents and guardians were in attendance and witnessed the turnover of these supplies, materials, and equipment needed to improve education delivery in their school.

“We are overwhelmed with the support. These will greatly assist us in our teaching and will surely motivate our pupils to continue learning despite what happened”, she shared.

The Ulitan Elementary School in Brgy Ulitan, Ungkaya Pukan in the Basilan province, suffered a devastating loss when combatants of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Philippine military clashed in November last year forced the evacuation of more than 500 households in the community. After the fighting subsided, and it was deemed safe to return to the community, Lorna and her fellow teachers returned to find that multiple gunshots had damaged the school buildings. Desks, chairs, and tables were also turned over and ruined. Gunshots forcefully opened some doors.

Lorna remembered how she stood in her room, scanned the damages, and felt lost on what to do. One hundred fifty-eight (158 enrollees) relied on them to resume their education. Without the necessary supplies and materials, they had to ask for the support of the local government unit, organizations, and private individuals to provide them with desks, tables, and chairs to resume their classes after the school was deemed safe for the pupils to return to.

CARE, NISA staff hand over the learning supplies, materials and equipment to the school administration witnessed by pupils and their parents/guardians in the Ulitan Elementary School.

CARE and NISA Ul Haqq fi Bangsamoro, Inc. consulted with the school administration and the teachers and included their specific needs in the Basilan Emergency Response. On March 4, some of the educational supplies, materials, and equipment they requested were turned over to their school.

Janira, a 71-year-old grandmother, was one among the people who attended the event. She has 3 grandchildren who are learning in the said school. She shared that they were disheartened that they were not able to continue schooling when they fled and stayed at the evacuation center for more than 20 days before they were able to return home.

“I’m glad that they will now have enough chairs and tables so that they can properly write their lessons”, she said. The pupils used to huddle and share the few desks they had in the school.

Pupils raise their hand when asked who were glad that their school have necessary learning materials and equipment to use in their education.

The Basilan Emergency Response is supported by the Tijori Foundation and is being implemented by CARE Philippines and its partner, NISA Ul Haqq fi Bangsamoro, Inc., in collaboration with the BARMM Ministry of Social Services and Development and Development, GPH-MILF Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) and the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG).

Conflict-affected community in Basilan receives aid thru CARE, partners

  • Mary Therese Norbe
  • Blog, Disaster Response, Featured Stories, Press Release

CARE Philippines Emergency Coordinator, Jerome Lanit hands over food items to a woman head of a household that was affected by the armed clashes in Ungkaya Pukan town in Basilan. (J. Dulla/CARE Philippines)

Five hundred eighty (580) households that were affected by the series of armed clashes in Brgy. Ulitan, Ungkaya Pukan, Basilan received essential food, non-food items, and shelter kits on February 4 and 5.

Members of these households were forced to leave their homes when combatants of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Philippine military clashed in November last year. When the conflict subsided, they returned only to find that some of their houses, including the mosque, madrasah, and an essential government building, were damaged from the fighting.

Some of the members of 120 households whose houses were damaged due to the fighting received shelter repair kits. (J. Dulla/CARE Philippines)

CARE and its partner, NISA Ul Haqq fi Bangsamoro (Women for Justice in the Bangsamoro), Inc., with the facilitation of the GPH-MILF Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) and the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) and with the support of the BARMM Ministry of Social Services and Development were able to access the community to deliver life-saving assistance to the affected vulnerable households.

“As humanitarians, it is important that we address first the needs of the members of vulnerable communities who still feel insecure because of the uncertainty of the situation while the peace mechanisms are working for a sustained solution to the conflict,” said Jerome Lanit, CARE’s Emergency Coordinator.

Meanwhile, Shalom Tillah Allian of NISA Ul Haqq fi Bangsamoro, Inc. shared that the collaboration with the BARMM MSSD, MILF CCCH and AHJAG showed that humanitarian and peace building efforts work meaningfully when working together on an equal footing.

“More than just the goods shared to them, to us what is more powerful is to see the mujahideens and the mujahidat owning the initiative as they led the distribution. We cannot overemphasize the importance of cultivating solidarity with the peace process mechanisms afforded to us”, she added.

Photos: Members of the community helped in the repacking and distribution of the relief goods to the affected households. (J. Dulla, S. Allian)

The Basilan Emergency Response is supported by the Tijori Foundation and is being implemented by CARE Philippines and its partner, NISA Ul Haqq fi Bangsamoro, Inc., in collaboration with the BARMM Ministry of Social Services and Development, GPH-MILF Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) and the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG).

Showcasing Disaster Risk Financing — British Embassy Reps Visit Start DRF Area in Taft, Eastern Samar

  • CARE Philippines
  • Blog, Featured Stories, Latest News & Stories, Press Release

Community members together with barangay local government officials, Taft Municipal Mayor Gina Alzate-Ty and Vice Mayor Maria Concepcion Adalim-Hilario, Political Counsellor Iain Cox of the British Embassy Manila and representatives of LCDE, CARE Philippines, and ACCORD in a group photo with the BBS model house after conducting an FGD. (Photo: L.Fuentes/CARE Philippines)

by Leigh Ginette Fuentes

In the Philippines, it was identified that hydrometeorological hazards are the most underfunded disaster events that the country faces, based on a study by the UP Resilience Institute. Consequently, in a survey conducted by Start Network among its members, it was identified that the major hazard in the country was tropical cyclones followed thirdly by flooding. The country has seen the onslaught of several strong, destructive typhoons in recent years, including Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) in 2013 and Typhoon Goni (Rolly) in 2020. Due to the effects of climate change, hazards such as these could intensify and become more frequent, posing a threat to local populations, their lives, property, and livelihoods.

Disaster Risk Financing (DRF) is a program of Start Network that allows members to create their own DRF Systems – a structured way to model and plan for risks. The Start Philippines Disaster Risk Finance system is majorly governed and implemented by Start Network members in-country, together with local NGO partners and scientific experts. The locally led consortium acknowledges the needs of local communities and comes up with data-driven actions to mitigate the impact of disasters and prevent the loss of lives and properties.

Last February 5, Political Counsellor Iain Cox and other key representatives of the British Embassy Manila visited Barangay Nato in Taft, Eastern Samar to learn more about Start DRF and the impact the programming implemented by the Eastern Samar DRF consortium, composed of CARE Philippines, the Leyte Center for Development, Inc. (LCDE), and Assistance and Cooperation for Community Resilience and Development, Inc. (ACCORD, Inc.) on community members, particularly of those vulnerable to the adverse effects of typhoons. These also included members of the barangay local government units from Can-Avid, Eastern Samar which is also a programmatic area.

An introduction to the Alternative Temporary Shelter (ATS) System was followed by an orientation on Build Back Safer (BBS) practices through visual aids and a model house, the same used in an orientation earlier that day with community members from Taft and Can-Avid. Community members and implementing organizations then engaged in a focus group discussion to learn more and delve into the experiences of community members in relation to typhoons, the recent continuous flooding, and the gaps they still see in the community’s ability to prepare for and respond to different disasters.

Among the participants was Lita Fe, 42, who is also member of the Women Collective in Barangay Nato, Taft, Eastern Samar. “Because of the skills and learnings from the capacity building sessions, we are now equipped to do pre-emptive evacuations during emergencies,” shared Lita Fe during a focus group discussion with Barangay representatives, members of the Shelter Roving Team, and other members of the Women’s Collective.

“Women have an important role during emergencies,” she adds, “and the skills we gained allow us to act even before a calamity hits the community.”

To learn more about the Start Network Disaster Risk Financing, please visit https://startnetwork.org/funds/disaster-risk-financing-support .

Farming, sewing, and saving

  • Mary Therese Norbe
  • Blog, Featured Stories, Gender, Latest News & Stories

Dark clouds hovered when Lolita, 53, arrived at her house on a gloomy December morning. She had just finished her daily trek of the muddy trail to and from their vegetable farm in Brgy. Malabanan, Balete, Batangas. It had been raining for a few days, so she and her son, who works with her on the farm, constantly checked how their crops were faring with the weather. They learned to be meticulous in monitoring their crops, especially the vegetables, because of their experience with the Mt. Taal volcanic ash eruption earlier that year.

The string beans they planted were already in their first month of growth when it happened. The leaves turned yellow and were laden with small holes.

“We immediately applied fertilizer to help the crops withstand the effects. It did help them from withering and grew to produce string beans that were shorter and thinner”, shared Lolita. Their few kilos of harvest only paid for a part of the expenses they made for that cropping.

Lolita has been farming for the past thirty years. She shared that the challenges have become more difficult in recent years. The biggest hurdle was the unpredictable weather which greatly affected their planting schedule and their crops’ resilience to the intense heat in the dry season and the heavy rains in the wet season. Added to this was how traders controlled the market: which crops to produce and the price of these crops.

These are the seeds of pigeon peas locally known as kadyos which Lolita stored for planting. | Photo: M. Norbe/CARE

“We used to plant different varieties of vegetables. We had no choice but to stick to only those the market demands”, shared Lolita.

With most farmers doing the same, the supply increases every harvest. This leads to a decrease in the buying price for their crops.

When she attended one of the sustainable agriculture trainings organized by CARE and the Southern Tagalog People’s Response Center – STPRC, Inc., she learned that food producers like her should be innovative in navigating the tricky waters of the market and ensuring that their farm production will be sustained for future generations.

Her son, Reymark, 27, is already working on their farm, and Lolita wanted him and his family to continue reaping the benefits of farming. These training were part of the aGAP (Asenso sa Good Agriculture Package), a project supported by the Metrobank Foundation that assists marginalized farming households whose livelihoods have been doubly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the intermittent Taal Volcano eruptions since January 2020.

After the training, she decided to integrate natural ways of farming by making oriental herbal nutrients (OHN), fish amino acids (FAA) and fermented plant juice (FPJ) and applying these as fertilizers and enhancers to their crops. Her first harvest after this was a success. The string beans yielded more than their usual harvest. The fruits were also longer and firmer. She also noticed that the soil turned darker, and the flowering vegetables kept blooming and bearing fruits every week.

Lolita (left) and another farmer participant peeled garlic to make oriental herbal nutrients (OHN) used to boost plant growth. | Photo: STPRC

She also decreased their production of ampalaya (bitter gourd), which sells at a high price but requires intense labor and is very sensitive to changes in weather and soil conditions and recurrent volcanic ash eruptions. Instead, she focused their vegetable production on crops that were easy to grow and required less amount of capital. She continued storing seeds that were open-pollinated varieties like string beans, okra, pigeon pea and winged beans, so she didn’t need to buy these from traders.

“We are near Taal, and we had to find ways like these to survive the effects of its eruption on our crops and livelihood,” she said.

Hence, Lolita also doesn’t depend on farming as her family’s sole source of income. After doing her farm chores, she sewed school uniforms that retailers of ready-to-wear clothes would buy from her for 130 pesos (2.6 USD) per dozen. She usually finishes two dozen per day. She also works on other farms as a weeder and harvester.

Above photo: Lolita spends most of her time in her porch where she sews school uniforms after her tending to their vegetable farm. |
M. Norbe/CARE

Right photo: Part of income from selling this fresh harvest of string beans will be put in the tin savings bank. | STPRC

“It felt so good to have some cash to use in times of difficulty. I didn’t have to borrow from anyone”, she added.

This story is part of the aGAP (Asenso sa Good Agriculture Package) sa Batangas implemented by CARE and its partner, Southern Tagalog People’s Response Center – STPRC, Inc. in three barangays in the Municipality of Balete in Batangas province. The Metrobank Foundation supports this project.

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.

Join the fight.
Sign up for our mailing list.