Filipino bands

UN FAO, New Zealand aid Cotabato drought-affected areas
Through a $3-million grant from the New Zealand government, FAO is currently supporting the recovery of 10,475 farming and fishing households in the province of Cotabato

NEW HOPE. A woman fisher stands by a lake in Sitio Bulogo, Baranggay Matilac in Pigkawayan municipality and shows a gill net she received through FAO. Photo by Dante Diosina/FAO

COTABATO PROVINCE, Philippines – Farming and fishing families in Mindanao are no stranger to both natural and human-induced disasters.

For over 4 decades now, their lives and livelihoods have been disrupted by recurrent displacement as a result of periodic armed clashes. In the past 5 years, strong typhoons and widespread drought have made their struggle worse.

“Equipping farming and fishing communities with skills, knowledge and resources to recover from crises, to minimize losses from future disasters, and to eventually rise from poverty is among the most important programmes of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in the country,”  José Luis Fernández, FAO representative in the Philippines, said.

Through a $3-million grant from the New Zealand government, FAO is currently supporting the recovery of 10,475 farming and fishing households in the province of Cotabato.

The project, which will operate until October 2017, aims to restart agricultural livelihoods and improve the coping abilities and resilience of smallholders in 5 municipalities.

OPPORTUNITY. Distribution of farming and fisheries production inputs are currently underway in the Province of Cotabato. Photo by Saudi Ampatuan/FAO  

The distribution of farm and fisheries inputs is currently underway. This includes rice, corn and vegetable seeds, fruit tree seedlings, fertilizer, drying nets, small farm machinery, post-harvest equipment, hand tools, livestock and poultry, tilapia fingerlings, and gillnets.

To complement these resources, FAO is also conducting climate-smart farmer field schools and other livelihood skills training, training on basic planning for disaster risk reduction and management in agriculture, including in agriculture hazard and vulnerability mapping and analysis, good practice options and technologies, and early warning and disaster preparedness.

“We have seen how peace, food security and economic growth are often mutually reinforcing. It is from this perspective that we emphasize the need for communities to be provided the kind of support that the government of New Zealand is enabling us to deliver,” Fernández added.

Food security situation

National accounts reveal that 11 of the 20 poorest provinces are in this primarily agriculture-dependent region.

Some three-fourths of the population of Mindanao or about 12.6 million people fall under levels 2 (mild chronic food insecurity), 3 (moderate chronic food insecurity) and 4 (severe chronic food insecurity), on the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification. About 1.96 million were found to be suffering from severe chronic food insecurity in 2015.

Since 2015, FAO has been working with the Philippine government to address priority agricultural development issues in the region through its Mindanao Strategic Programme for Agriculture and Agribusiness (MSPAA). 

While yet to be fully-funded, the MSPAA has served as a framework for the implementation of at least 5 projects in areas most severely affected by natural and man-made calamities.

FAO’s work in Mindanao is implemented in close partnership with the government through its various agencies at the national, regional and local levels. 

FAO also coordinates with the Mindanao Development Authority and works closely with the Department of Agriculture, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, the Bangsamoro Development Agency, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, and other pertinent agencies and local government units. –

The article was contributed by the  Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), a partner of Rappler’s Hunger Project.