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Rehabilitating the Philippine fisheries sector through sustainable fishing practices

FAO helps coastal communities bounce back and build resilient livelihoods.

Key facts

When Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines in 2013, 73 percent of coastal communities were severely affected and approximately two-thirds of small-scale fishers lost their productive assets—including boats, fishing gear and post-harvest equipment. Substantial damage was also incurred by the aquaculture and mariculture industry, which contributes to more than half of the total national fisheries production. The loss of livelihoods resulting from the typhoon had far-reaching effects on the overall quality of life of Filipino fishers, particularly for women who play an important role in the post-harvest processing of fish. The rehabilitation process of the fisheries sector presented the opportunity to introduce improved practices and help small-scale traders and fish processors add more value to their production. Paving the way for more sustainable development, FAO worked closely with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and local authorities to restore the fisheries-related livelihoods of nearly 18 000 fisher households in the regions of Eastern Visayas, Western Visayas and northern Palawan. Because the Philippines is at high risk of recurring natural disasters, FAO provided safety at sea training and technical assistance to coastal communities along with developing fisheries management improvement plans to contribute to more sustainable fishing practices.

As part of the programme, boat builders were trained on the construction and maintenance of a newly developed hybrid wood-and-fibreglass boat, which provided a more environmentally sustainable and cost-effective option for fishers. This was complemented by the distribution of various inputs, such as boat engines and fishing gear.

In addition, the provision of post-harvest kits and related training activities enabled fish farmers, particularly women, to consolidate production at the household level and to engage with larger markets. The project encouraged women’s organizations to explore other value-adding practices using more innovative drying technologies and to reduce fish wastage, therefore increasing their household income.

A new hybrid boat and training for boat builders
“In my 39 years of life, it’s the first time I encountered that kind of typhoon,” recalled Domingo Olediana, a carpenter from the island of Culion.

“The night of Yolanda, we told everyone to leave their house and go to the school or to the church because that is the designated evacuation centre of our barangay. Then in the evening, Yolanda came. It totally damaged our place and all our boats.”

Typhoon Haiyan damaged or destroyed some 30 000 fishing boats and affected coastal communities in Regions IV-B, VI and VIII. Massive requirements for hard timber to replace or repair damaged fishing boats were therefore a major concern.

FAO, together with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), explored various boat design possibilities that could be adopted to create a boat that is both environmentally sustainable and locally feasible. This resulted in the development of a hybrid boat that retains most of the components of traditional wooden boats but replaces the keel with fibreglass, which was traditionally made of hardwood timber.

To facilitate community acceptance, FAO trained boat builders and carpenters in the three affected regions on the construction and maintenance of the fibreglass keel. The trainings were conducted in BFAR’s regional training centres and were facilitated by local boatbuilding consultants commissioned by FAO. The training package included boatbuilding manuals with detailed illustrations on the construction of the hybrid boat and focus group sessions on fibreglass preparation and safety requirements.

Through the programme, FAO has trained 900 boat builders and carpenters, who can now teach other carpenters and boat builders when they return to their communities. By training trainers, knowledge on construction and maintenance is expected to be passed on to 3 000 boat builders and carpenters.

For carpenters like Domingo Olediana, the training on how to build the hybrid boat will have long-term benefits for his community. “I have something to teach my brothers and neighbours so that they will also know how to make the hybrid banca (boat), without using hard wood,” he said. “A banca like this can be handed down from generation to generation, given that it lasts three times as long as the traditional banca.”

An innovative approach to post-harvest and processing activities
Through the same programme, 7 200 households were engaged in post-harvest and processing activities. Post-harvest kits and related training were provided to enable fish farmers to consolidate production at household level and also engage with larger markets. The programme was able to target areas that had not previously been reached and because of this, fishers living in remote areas received access to culturally-acceptable, simple and practical ways of improving their livelihoods.

Loida Lagan's family is one of thousands of fisher households whose shelter and livelihoods were destroyed by the typhoon. As she predicted, making both ends meet was even more difficult after Haiyan. “It was difficult for us to move on. The storm destroyed our drying facilities. Our men couldn’t fish because their boats were damaged; and if they could, there was very meagre catch. I could not dry squid or fish anymore because there was nothing left to dry. We had little security because we had no income.”

Prior to Typhoon Haiyan, women processors like Loida bartered their dried fish products for rice from farmers during the harvest season. This practice was common in areas where farm to market roads were inadequate. FAO interventions after the typhoon encouraged women organizations to explore other value-adding practices using more innovative drying technologies, reduce fish wastage and therefore improve the income of their families.

With the support, Loida’s livelihood source is now back on track. “We learned how to dry fish and squid more efficiently by minimizing spoilage and proper cleaning. We also learned how much salt was necessary to avoid spoilage and how to make new products like fish tocino,” she added. “Right now, we’re optimistic that we can have better incomes. We’ve learned not to be too dependent on our spouses; that women can help; and we’ve become more confident in doing that.”

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