18 January 2017

Student Stories: Aiding disaster recovery in the Philippines

Jerik Cruz (MDev Graduate, 2016) and Ace Dela Cruz (2nd Year MDev Candidate) explain their project to develop a “solidarity” model for post-disaster recovery.

The people of Casiguran— a remote town of farmers, fisherfolk and indigenous peoples in the northeastern Philippines— have been trying to rebuild their lives since powerful typhoons in 2013 and 2015 destroyed or severely damaged practically all of their homes.

Both of us have known about Casiguran’s storm woes for some time, having served in advocacy campaigns to protect residents’ land rights in 2012, and in disaster relief drives for local communities in 2013. Still, we felt there was more we could do for the long-term recovery of families who had lost their homes and means of livelihood. How could we further help Casiguran’s townspeople reconstruct their lives in an inclusive and sustainable fashion?

In May 2016, an opportunity arose via the Fondation Pralong’s Prix C. Pralong grant contest. We proposed an initiative that would not only support the post-disaster recovery of Casiguran residents’ livelihoods, but also address one of the main sources of their poverty— their lack of power in dealing with traders and middlemen. In August, we learnt that we were to be the first-ever Prix Pralong grantee team formed entirely by developing country nationals.

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With funding from the Fondation Pralong’s donors, our project is now in its initial stages. Over the next three months, we will be coordinating the creation of a new marketing cooperative involving 219 families, before setting up a community market where local producers can sell their products to their own communities and nearby areas. These same households will receive disaster-resilient agricultural inputs, as well as training modules in sustainable livelihood practice and household financial management. 

Our community partners and beneficiaries have mostly taken the lead in designing the project according to their needs. In the months to come, we aim to create enough of this deep cooperation with town residents to forge a potential model for disaster recovery that can be applied in other municipalities: socially-inclusive, ecologically-rooted, and enabling new forms of the “solidarity economy” to arise in post-disaster situations."

You can track our students’ progress by following Ace on Instagram.