In January 2021, two months after Rolly and Ulysses, UNDP was tapped by the Provincial Government to assist in rehabilitating livelihoods in severely affected areas in Albay. Among the key target beneficiaries for this initiative were women and micro-entrepreneurs, farmers, weavers, and fisherfolks like Tatay Julian. Through UNDP’s involvement, the provincial government recognized the importance of rebuilding livelihoods and building seeds of sustainable economic development vis-à-vis the relief operations.
While early recovery response provides an immediate stopgap measure to aid those impacted by the typhoons, it was necessary to capacitate the communities for long-term resilience as well. As the old adage goes, ‘give a man fish, and he feeds for a day; teach a man how to fish, and he eats for a lifetime.’ In the case of UNDP’s Rebuilding Livelihoods initiative, give fisherfolks capital so they can start investing in alternative types of livelihood for when the seas are too rough for fishing!
The UNDP livelihood assistance, which began in March 2021, reached out to 460 beneficiaries from the seven selected municipalities through the support of the Bicol Consortium for Development initiative (BCDI). Under the initiative, 60 fisherfolks from three barangays in Bacacay, namely Busdac, San Pablo, and Pili Iraya, were provided support to recover and rebuild their livelihoods.
A total of 41 fisherfolks who decided to continue fishing received nets and a big fish basin to support their catch and selling operations. Nineteen fisherfolks who opted to venture into alternative livelihoods received cash assistance to cover the working capital needed for their chosen alternative. All of them received seedlings as well for backyard planting.
For the fisherfolks who opted to receive cash assistance, they went through a series of training conducted by BCDI to develop their business plans and learn more about entrepreneurship and financial management. Among them, many have chosen to focus on hog-raising, given the high demand.
As for those who opted for the fishing gears, Daniel Belga, Field Officer of BCDI, mentioned that they would rather have new equipment than have money that they could easily lose. He said, “You can easily lose money if you don’t spend it wisely. For others, new fishing gears are more important for their everyday use”.)
Tatay Julian, who has been fishing for 40 years, chose the livelihood cash assistance over the fishing equipment because he wants to start a new business. He knows that more typhoons will pass through their small island, and his family will need an alternative source of income for days when fishing is not possible. He would like to use the money to buy a non-motorized sewing machine so that his seamstress wife can sew school uniforms for nearby communities.
He specially highlighted that, “We need an alternative livelihood. My wife is a seamstress, but our first sewing machine broke because of old age. We received a motorized sewing machine, but it needs electricity to work. When a typhoon batters us, it sometimes takes six months for electricity to be reconnected. When we were hit by the typhoons in October, we didn’t have electricity until March”.
Judy and her family chose the cash assistance as well to try to make their hog-raising business more sustainable. She exclaims, “This will help us immensely! We started as hog-raisers—we bought our new fishing boat using the earnings from the pig we sold”.
There is still much to learn for these fishing communities, but they have also begun showing interest in learning how to conduct their businesses online despite the difficulties in connectivity in the area. The pandemic has slowed down the demand and has limited physical mobility. For them, going digital is the next frontier.
Social Concerns Officer Vita keeps an eye on these fishers to provide much-needed guidance in their new livelihood ventures. She says, “I always remind them to take good care of the capital given to them and grow it. They need to help each other. Once your business thrives, the community also thrives”.
While the COVID-19 pandemic is still permeating in all aspects of society, the fisherfolks of Bacacay are hopeful that they will be able to grow the livelihood support into a sustainable income stream that will make them less economically vulnerable come typhoon season. And that the next time Tatay Julian and the other fisherfolks in the coastal communities are woken up from slumber by the rumble of an incoming typhoon, they would not have to worry about where they will get their next meal or how they will be able to afford to rebuild their homes.
This is a two-part story. Read part one here.