Rising together?

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Friday, July 4, 2014


GOOD things indeed come to those who don't just wait but also hope and labor. After about two years of implementation, the project "Capacity Strengthening of Five Philippine Provinces in DRRM and CCA" is finally touching base with its intended beneficiaries – the communities in the disaster fronts.

With the assistance of Australian National University (ANU), it has been a meaningful and timely tri-partite engagement among the partners that include Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology, the LGUs of the province of Lanao del Norte and the City of Iligan, and the communities, which are part of the project.

To some degree, it has been a social experiment – this coming together of different institutions and social groups with varying cultures and methods of work. But the common goal of capacitating communities in facing disasters bounded the group together and enabled them to face the hurdles. The silent battle cry of everyone involved is that a single death as a result of lack of preparedness before typhoons, floods, and other calamities, is one too many. It is also the unspoken point of unity among all partners.

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After a series of national and provincial level trainings, the project has now entered the phase wherein the communities determine, plan and implement their DRRM mini-projects with a small seed fund. By allowing communities to propose small projects based on their concrete needs, the results have been positive.

In Barangay Lapinig, Kapatagan and Poblacion, Sapad both in Lanao del Norte, they plan to implement a Bamboo Nursery project which they will then plant along riverbanks to mitigate soil erosion and siltation of their rivers. The bamboo products that they will eventually harvest will also serve as raw materials for their e-bamboo livelihood project for a host of by-products such as furniture, tiles and others all export quality.

In Maranding municipality of Lala also in Lanao del Norte, there is an active community of DRRM and CCA advocates among the womenfolk. Recognizing that the burden of resilience in the post- disaster aftermath lie on the shoulders of mothers, the barangay proposed a livelihood project that will help the womenfolk of the community and the household they manage with additional income.

The horrors of Sendong is still fresh in Barangay Santiago, Iligan years after. Located at the mouth of Mandulog river and facing the Iligan Bay, the community bore the brunt of flash floods with logs and debris wiping out entire Puroks. To this day, hundreds are still missing with abandoned and destroyed homes still visibile in Orchid homes for instance.

The barangay proposed early warning signs composed of flood markers and evacuation and hazard maps to be installed in strategic locations around the community with the aim that when another Sendong comes around, there will be zero casualty in the community.

The Bajau community in Barangay Tambacan, Iligan City is one of the most vulnerable sectors when it comes to disaster risks. The community is also located at the mouth of the Iligan River. Their houses on stilts, though adapted to the rising tides, cannot withstand however the force of a rushing storm surge.

While this is a problem that must be faced at the soonest possible time, the more pressing concerns of the community are the sanitation problems within their vicinity and their daily struggle for economic survival as manifested in their desperate recourse to begging on the street. Last April 2014, thirteen Bajau children died from measles when an outbreak occurred.

Their project proposal, with the inputs of the Friends of Bajau, Inc., and MSU-IIT Department of Extension's WE CARE program include the construction of a solid waste receptacle. The various households will take charge of cleaning their immediate surroundings to address the sanitation problem of the community.

But it is the proposed livelihood program of rope twinning using native grass lampakanay as raw material that addresses the mendicancy concern of the Bajau. There are ready buyers of the finished product in Cebu and the income in the rope production can go a long way in keeping the Bajau and their children off the streets.

All these projects were successful launched in their respective communities last July 2-3, 2014. Similar efforts are also ongoing in four other Philippine provinces under the same project. Now begins the arduous task of ensuring the sustainability of these community initiatives. More work lies ahead among MSU-IIT's extensionists who can be pulled in to provide their expertise to help these on-going partnerships.

Disasters always threaten the social fabric that binds us together as a people. But it also gives us the important lesson that we can only rise together and establish risk resilient communities if we find ways to trust, persevere, in helping and learning from each other.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on July 04, 2014.

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