IT IS an oft-repeated tale that the poorest among the poor would be the fisherman or to be politically correct, the fisher folk. Unlike the land, the sea cannot be coaxed to produce more like a farmer would tease the farm by infusing fertilizers and planting GMOs. Harsh sea conditions cannot be weathered by artificial means like irrigation for parched lands or human-made sheds cannot protect the fisherman from roasting under the heat of the sun.
Fishing is a way of life in the Philippines with its 7,100 islands and a coastline stretching 36,289 kilometers. Yet, according to the NCSB, the fisherfolk are the poorest among the nine basic sectors in the Philippines. This is exacerbated by the feeble maritime law enforcements and pitiable licensing mechanisms. But because thousands of lives are at stake, some organizations are dealing with the lack and one of this is Rare.
Rare is a global conservation organization that uses its expertise in behavioral science to empower communities in adopting new sustainable behaviors and solutions to improve livelihood and biodiversity. In the Philippines, Rare has introduced Fish Forever, a coastal fisheries program that combines “a community-based conservation approach with spatial management to restore and protect small-scale fisheries in the Philippines.” So far, Fish Forever has mobilized 500 local leaders and almost 38,000 fishers and 860,000 community members to adopt the approach. One of the components of the program is to identify marine sanctuaries and encourage managed access areas within the sanctuaries. Rare has established community-managed areas in 17 municipalities out of its 20 municipality partners. The Fish Forever program has also ensured community resilience in coastal areas by mainstreaming financial literacy, climate change adaptation, and gender equality.
In Ayoke, Cantilan, Surigao del Sur, poverty is seemingly eased by Rare by providing mobile fish dryers to encourage the community to sell processed fish. From Ayoke, it would take at least one hour by boat for a fisherman to reach the market in Surigao making it susceptible to spoilage notwithstanding the selling prices dictated by the traders and the increasing cost of fuel. Rare has also identified private companies that deal sustainably sourced seafood who “comply with desirable fishing behaviors” like the use of licensed gear and boats in designated fishing areas. During the recent Sustainable Seafood Week, processed marine products like Darling Dangit, Papa Pusit, and Mommy Dilis endeared themselves to the audience. Likewise, Rare is teaching the Ayoke community the value of financial planning and budgeting through savings clubs. Since there are no banks in the neighborhood, Rare claims the pooled savings or the modest cash box “helps protect families from financial crises brought about by illness or typhoons that regularly ravage coastal communities.” Change is forever but with assistance like Rare’s, people and nature can probably thrive forever.