“The humanitarian situation in the areas devastated by Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) is catastrophic” declares the UN’s OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) website. According to its findings, almost 15 million people are affected including some five million children. That is one in six people in the country. More than 4 million men, women and children have been displaced, and despite the concerted efforts by the local and international community, many are still lacking food, safe drinking water, basic shelter and sanitation.
Disparity in material aid distribution is appearing as well. The UN report urges “to expand their response programs to more remote areas and islands in Eastern and Western Visayas Regions.”
The damage to land and food production systems is acute. In Eastern Visayas, for example, it is estimated 63,234 hectares of rice fields, or nearly 40% of the paddies in the region, are damaged by Yolanda. Even where fields are undamaged, farmers are finding it difficult to get hold of rice seed before the current planting season ends in January. Subsistence fishing people are also in urgent need of repairs to, or replacement of their boats and fishing gear – their tools for survival.
Some of our friends and colleagues have been in the remote area identified in the UN report as of urgent need. They are there to provide immediate relief as well as mapping out strategies to assist the locals to build a more self-reliant and resilient future. While the usual crisis relief effort is focused more on restoring previous quality of life, permaculture aid sees the devastation as an opportunity to develop a better future applying permaculture ethics and design principles.
Having established their base camp at Maia ecovillage in Palawan, the teams are now in the field assessing the area, making contacts with locals, and attempting to establish regional bases in Coron, Cebu, Leyte/Samar and Panay.
North Cebu suffered dramatically under Typhoon Yolanda. A team passed through Cebu en route to Leyte, and came upon an emergency housing encampment established by the Red Cross and the local government. A local permaculture personality has been subcontracted to install a solar power system. Upon inspection of the site, the need for a comprehensive redesign was realised. Discussions with site management and local government are currently underway to determine what PAY (Permaculture Aid Yolanda) can offer to the homeless and dispossessed people of Tacloban.
In Coron, the Philippine-based permaculture activist Bert Peeters has been on the ground, identifying the problems and working out strategy while helping source and provide repair materials for vital infrastructure; his team is building a community centre and gardens in Marabal as a demonstration site with direct hands-on community participation.
As one of the areas worst hit by Yolanda, many in Leyte/Samar are still left without food, water, clothing and shelter. Schools, churches and other public buildings are destroyed. The international relief efforts fly in to the more urban centers like Tacloban while the remote villages are often left out, some being inaccessible because the roads are yet to be reopened.
A permaculture aid team is now en route to Batug, south of Tacloban, where it was invited to be part of the local recovery effort. The team will first focus on rebuilding the local school with Andrea and her local NGO, One Block for Batug, who initiated the local school project, which was heavily damaged by Yolanda.
Through the help of Hubert Posadas, Steve Cran’s recon team has set up a base camp in Barbaza on Panay Island’s west coast, which was also severely damaged by Yolanda. So far, the local government units, community leaders and the Mayor have agreed to adopt the permaculture restoration project. You can read Steve’s field report here.
Hepburn’s own permaculture transition network, HRN so far has donated $1000 to Permaculture Aid Yolanda. You too can help devastated communities in the Philippines. Funds are desperately needed. To donate send an email to HRN for bank details, your donation will go fully and directly to where it’s needed.
PAY is also looking for volunteers; enquiries to permaculture.aid.yolanda(at)gmail.com