Rebuilding Coconut Production After Typhoon Yolanda
Typhoon Haiyan not only left millions of people displaced, it also struck into the livelihood of the poorest in the agriculture sector in the country and they would need as much assistance to be able to recover their livelihoods back fast.
Initial reports from the Philippine Coconut Authority suggests that more than 33 million trees in the seven provinces (Quezon, Guimaras, Iloilo, Negros Occidental, Cebu, Eastern Samar and Leyte) along the path of Yolanda were damaged in varying degrees. Approximately 15 million trees have been totally destroyed. Of the tress that have been damaged as long as the main buds is undamaged then the tree is likely to return to normal production within a year. Furthermore the intrusion of salt water, a natural fertiliser, will boost coconut production in the coastal areas that were flooded.
The Eastern Visayas region is the second highest coconut producer in the country, with some 46 million trees producing 1, 771 thousand metric tons of coconuts in 2012. In Leyte province an estimated 168,000 hectares is coconut plantations.
Optimistically it is going to take at least 6-9 years before coconuts return to full production and during that time farmers will be facing serious food security problems unless alternative livelihood solutions are developed almost immediately. Just replanting coconut tress isn't going to be sufficient.
Pre-Shock Conditions in the Coconut Industry
Coconut farmers are among the poorest rural people in the Philippines. Six (6) out of 10 coconut farmers are living in poverty. Access to land and lack of secure tenure is one of the main drivers of poverty and inequality in the Philippines. In Eastern Samar for example 59.4% of the population are living in poverty. More than half of the 16,300 coconut farmers in Eastern Samar have no secure access to land.
According to recent Department of Agrarian Reform data, the remaining land that is still to be distributed under the Land Acquisition and Distribution (LAD) programme is in the Samar provinces and is mostly planted with coconut. The largest portion of the undistributed land is coconut (30% or 262,524 ha) and rice (20% or 178, 690 ha). The largest portion of undistributed land is in the provinces affected by typhoon Yolanda is Leyte (44,278 has) -- 61% of which is coconut and 15% rice. The remaining undistributed land (LAD) in Samar provinces are also mostly planted with coconut. The lowest levels of land distribution in terms of LAD in in Region 8 - Samar, Leyte provinces - which has only achieved a dismal 2% redistribution compared with the other regions in the country (DAR, 2013).
Possibly the biggest challenge of the land reform is that almost 90% of remaining lands to be distributed is private agricultural land. The private land is roughly 783,490 hectares of total undistributed land in the LAD programme (DAR, June 2013).
Problem Analysis
Considering the impact that Typhoon Yolanda has has on the Philippines one of the biggest impacts has been to the coconut industry. The total destruction of over 15 million trees has in one stoke wiped out the livelihoods of thousands of coconut farmers and up to
52% of small scale farmers in the Philippines are older people. Bear in mind that the restoration of full production is going to take 6-9 years so these farmers are going to need to find alternative livelihoods and find them fast. If alternative livelihoods and the restoration of the coconut industry doesn't happen soon the it's is possible that food insecurity in the region will escalate to even higher levels. This secondary food security disaster raises the following important questions:
1) How will farmer families who depended on the harvest of the coconut trees including nuts, leaves and lumber fill the income gap that the destroyed trees have left?
2) Even if we could plant all the trees in the next week it would still take up to six years before the trees start to produce and up to eight years before they reach full production, thus leaving a significant income gap in the lives of thousands of rural families. Clearly alternative sources of income needs to be developed quickly.
3) Many farmers may choose an alternative livelihood which has a short term cash cycle. If you are a 55 year old farmer you might not want to wait eight years before your income is back to pre- typhoon condition - it simply takes too long!
4) It has been suggested that they could grow alternative crops eg rive, corn, cassava etc which is of course possible and indeed will be a solution for those farmers who own land that can be converted to alternative crops. However for other farmers it's not quite that simple, in Villaba for example the soil is rocky and might not be suitable for the production of alternative cereal or cash crops. In such cases consultation, land profile analysis, soil testing etc will be needed to develop a reasonable alternative livelihood strategy. Farmers could switch to or increase animal production but again this depends on the carrying capacity of the land, auxiliary veterinarian services for these farmers.
5) But there is still a bigger problem that needs to be understood and that is the question of land ownership. Who owns the land where all the fallen trees are growing?.
6) We need to understand the coconut value chain and engage with all the relevant stakeholders
7) Perhaps this is the opportunity to broker with the landowners a better deal for the poor farmers and labourers who use their land and harvest the coconut tree products, but to do this successful we need to have a coordinated and consolidated message/approach to tackle the problem.
One thing is certain to solve this secondary crisis it is is going to take a massive, coordinated and combined effort on the part of all interested parties including Department of Agriculture, Philippine Coconut Authority, UN agencies such as FAO and ILO, INGOs such as CARE, HelpAge, Oxfam, CRS, Save the Children and the national NGOs such as COSE.
The immediate actions
1) The Department of Agriculture through the Philippine Coconut Authority must maximise its current resources to prioritise and respond to the needs of coconut farmers in the typhoon affected communities and help them recover.
2) As coconuts are long-gestating crops, the cutting of coconut trees should be judicious.
3) Farmers need food/cash in exchange of the services and coconut lumber that is procured from them should be done at a reasonable price.
4) Philippine Coconut Authority should ensure that only felled coconut trees be cut to support shelter construction and construction of latrines in evacuation camps.
5) Agencies (UN, INGO and national NGOs) must respond by supporting the development and implementation of a holistic immediate, early recovery and long term response to the partial destruction of the coconut Industry. In order to achieve this goal a Coconut Reconstruction Task-force should be developed under the leadership of the government and supported initially by the humanitarian sector, donors and development partners
6) Donors should urgently priorities the reconstruction programme realising that it must begin immediately and provide funding to a consortium of agencies to support the Government in achieving this objective.
Recovery Actions
1) Crop diversification should be supported with farmers encouraged and supported with dissemination and distribution of rootcrops, vegetables, leguminous seeds, poultry and livestocks so that farmers can harvest and earn during lean months
2) Livelihood diversification activities should be explored with farmers and then the implementation of these activates must be supported through early recovery projects
3) Related coconut value chain components such as building coir and capacity for processing activated carbon from coconut shells should be supported.
4) The Philippine Coconut Authority in partnership with the coconut industry including CIIF oil mills group, coconut water companies, donors and the NGOs (early recovery funds) should finance and implement massive replanting program in the affected municipalities.
5) Support the fast, track issuing Notice of Certification (NOCs) - the official document issued by govt for lands certified for redistribution especially to affected coconut and rice farmers in the provinces
Advocacy with Civil Society
1) The National Economic Development Authority must fast-track the finalisation of the Integrated Coconut Industry Development Road Map and ensure its appropriation in the 2014 General Appropriations Act.
2) We must engage with the Department of Agrarian Reform and support the land acquisition and distribution (LAD) process
3) Advocacy campaign for the national government to fast track land distribution before the comprehensive agrarian reform program (CARP) ends in June 2014, by immediately issuing NOCs, especially to affected farmers in these provinces. (NOCs refer to Notice of Certification - the official document issued by govt for lands certified for redistribution under CARP)
Stakeholders in the Coconut Industry and it's recovery
Department of Agriculture Philippine Coconut Authority Department of Agrarian Reform National Economic Development Authority CIIF oil mills group (copra and coconut oil extraction etc) Coconut water companies (milk harvesting)
FAO and ILO INGOs including CARE, Oxfam, HelpAge, CRS, Save the Children, PLAN, JICA, etc NGOs example COSE Other interested parties (this is not an exhaustive list)
Progress to date and next steps
Idea initiated and basic concept circulated (1/12/13) Initial meeting of interested agencies in Tacloban (5/12/13) Discuss with PCA (5/12/13) Meet with DA (5/12/13 Meet again and develop a coconut concept note (this document - first draft (5/12/13) Circulate first draft to group (5/12/13) Approach donors to provide initial support (6/12/13) Initiate a workshop approximately 16/12/13 in Manila to bring together the various stakeholders to begin the process of developing a recovery strategy (Organised by HelpAge international and FAO)