FAO in the Philippines

Restoring fisheries livelihoods in conflict-affected communities

Hanina Maldiza of Taluksangay, Zamboanga City learns good practices for smoked fish production

Zamboanga City – Decades of armed conflict have been a constant test of resilience for farmers and fishers in several provinces in the southern part of the Philippines. In 2013, more than 120 000 people in Zamboanga City were displaced by a violent stand-off between the military and armed members of the Moro National Liberation Front.

Coastal residents who relied primarily on fishing and seaweed farming were among the most severely affected members of the population. Trapped in a seemingly unending cycle of poverty, they had limited means to recover from the loss of livelihoods.

Women and the youth were particularly vulnerable, owing to the difficulty of finding decent sources of income. Many of them were involved in post-harvest, value-adding processes and marketing of fisheries products. But this was not an option when the men could not go out to sea to fish. As the pressure to earn a living increased, some women resorted to compromising forms of work.

Supporting recovery

Through the Peacebuilding Fund of the United Nations, FAO and the International Labour Organization supported the livelihood recovery of small-scale fishers and seaweed growers, primarily women and youth members affected by the siege.

“The restoration of livelihoods affected by conflict and enabling the most vulnerable to become more resilient to both natural and human-induced disasters are crucial to longer-term recovery and food security,” said FAO Representative in the Philippines José Luis Fernandez.

In close collaboration with the local government and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, around 450 families were provided with seaweed production start-up kits and livelihood skills training. Beneficiaries also received vegetable seeds and organic fertilizer, which helped address their short-term food needs while they rebuild their livelihoods. 

“I saw that prior to this, women engaged in just any type of work. After we were trained by FAO, they no longer did those kinds of work. They are now focusing on the livelihood they learned from the training,” said Juriah Abduraji of Rio Hondo town.

Women from different community organizations learned about good manufacturing practices, post-harvest handling and processing, preservation and value-adding of fish and related products. As a result, they gained the means and 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, mixed with seaweed pickles,” narrated Hanina Maldiza of Taluksangay town.

Tangible results

FAO worked with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and financial institutions to facilitate market access for the products developed by beneficiaries.

At least nine women’s associations have since registered with DTI. This enabled them to acquire labels for their products, to be more competitive in mainstream markets and to formally engage in the processing and trading of value-added fish products.

Additionally, 16 women’s seaweed farming groups were linked with micro-financing organizations, which would help them gain access to capital and other resources. Four other women’s associations are now trading dried seaweed products in partnership with the KFI Center for Community Development Foundation.

“With the help of FAO, we became stronger in facing tragedies that come our way because we now know better how we can rise again,” Hanina said.

Sustainable fisheries

Through the project, FAO also assisted the local government to build 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 environment as an economic fallback. Fisherfolk will no longer feel the need to resort to destructive fishing if there are other sustainable ways to earn.”

FAO in Mindanao

Under its Mindanao Strategic Programme for Agriculture and Agribusiness, FAO has been engaging donors and development partners in the restoration of conflict and disaster-affected agricultural livelihoods, and in increasing the resilience and incomes of farmers and fisherfolk. The region is home to about a quarter of the Philippines’ population and supplies over 40 percent of the country’s food requirements.