In September 2013, armed members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) attacked the City of Zamboanga. This resulted in a deadly stand-off with Government soldiers for 19 days. The siege displaced more than 120 000 people, including indigenous peoples and households that depend on fishing and seaweed farming for a living. Three years after the violent siege, many households in coastal communities are finally finding the courage to rebuild their livelihood and strengthen their resilience to disasters. Through the Peace Building Fund of the United Nations, FAO and the International Labour Organization (ILO) have been working in Zamboanga City to provide livelihood recovery assistance to small-scale fishers and seaweed growers who were affected by armed clashes.
For residents in some of the conflict-affected communities in Mindanao, the armed struggle between government forces and rebels is more than just a clash of ideologies. It is a test of their resilience.
“All the people here in Zamboanga City went through poverty. We struggled. Like us here, we could not go out to sea to fish,” said Norhamblo Sagales, a fisher and the tribal chief of the Sama-Badjao ethnic group in Arena Blanco, Zamboanga, as he describes their condition of his community after the violent siege in 2013.
Supporting livelihoods recovery
Through the Peace Building Fund of the United Nations, International Labour Organization (ILO) and FAO have been working in Zamboanga City to provide livelihood recovery assistance to small-scale fishers and seaweed growers, primarily women and youth members who were affected by armed clashes.
In close collaboration with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and the city government, FAO distributed seaweed production start-up kits and livelihood training to around 450 seaweed farming and fishing families. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and financial institutions like KFI Center for Community Development Foundation, a microfinance institution helping local farmers and fisherfolk, also facilitated market access for the products developed by fisher households covered by the project. “They gave us what we really needed: tools for fishers like us and inputs for seaweed growers”, says Sagales.
The support also included better seedling varieties. “Before, harvest was [usually done] within 30 to 40 days. Now, with better seedling varieties, we can do that in 20 to 25 days. The [livelihood] training also helped us a great deal in teaching us how to do business,” explained Baisan Nasakil from Barangay Leha-leha, Zamboanga City.
Recognizing the role of women
In recognition of their important role in improving household incomes, FAO also provided alternative livelihood opportunities for women. A total of 200 women from different community organizations were trained in good manufacturing practices for fish post-harvest handling and processing, preservation and value-adding of fish and related products. As a result, women now have the means and the skills to start small businesses in processed seafood. “Because of this, I learned that fish [seafood] can be prepared in many different ways like tempura, dumplings and mixed with seaweed pickles. With the help of FAO, we also became stronger in facing tragedies that come our way because we now know better how to rise again,” affirmed one of the project’s beneficiary, Hanina Maldiza from Taluksangay, Zamboanga.
FAO has also been assisting the city government in building awareness on coastal fisheries and resource conservation and management. Conrado Dizon, FAO Fisheries Consultant, explains that “providing alternative sources of livelihood to people in coastal communities also reduces the burden on the fish resources as an economic fallback. Fisherfolk will no longer feel the need to resort to active fishing if there are other sustainable ways to earn.”
With support from FAO, four women’s associations have since registered with the DTI. The formal registration enabled them to acquire labels for their products, in turn allowing them to enter into mainstream markets and formally engaging in the processing and trading of value-added fish products. Before the project closed, an additional five cooperatives were endorsed to DTI for registration and acquisition of product labels.
Additional four women’s organizations, specifically engaged in seaweed farming, are now earning as traders of dried seaweed products in partnership with the KFI Center for Community Development Foundation. An additional 16 seaweed farming women’s associations were also linked with micro-financing organizations, to provide them with access to capital and other resources.
- FAO in the Philippines
- Country Profile: Philippines
- FAO in Mindanao
- Planting the seeds of recovery in the Philippines after typhoon Haiyan
- Restoring coconut farmers’ livelihoods in the Philippines
- Rehabilitating the Philippine fisheries sector through sustainable fishing practices
- Helping seaweed farming flourish after Typhoon hits Philippines