07 Bringing Home Ownership: Resilient Community Garden in Ilang City, Philippines

Published: 2024-07-23 Author: mysheen
Last Updated: 2024/07/23, 07 Bringing Home Ownership: Resilient Community Garden in Ilang City, Philippines


/ Liao Yicheng (Associate researcher of the National Science and Technology Center for disaster Prevention and Rescue)

Living in an environment frequently affected by disasters, coupled with a lack of disaster response capacity, makes people vulnerable, while climate change increases disaster risk and makes vulnerable communities face more severe disaster impacts.

Facing the threat of disaster risk and climate change, food security is the key to survival. Having a stable and autonomous food supply reduces the impact on daily subsistence and local livelihoods, avoids hunger and even famine caused by disruptions in food supply and rationing, and creates micro-community economies, from planting to co-feeding, allowing communities to support each other, thereby reducing disruption to livelihoods and economic activity caused by disasters, enabling affected communities to recover and rebuild better (Build Back Better).

Therefore, the Asia-Pacific disaster Prevention capacity Building Center (APEC-Emergency Preparedness Capacity Building Center, EPCC) put forward the initiative of "small farmers with more disaster resilience (Plant Back Better, PBB)" to promote community agricultural planting strategies with the concept of resilience, so as to build the adaptation capacity of small farmers in the face of disasters and climate threats. With the support of APEC and the Ministry of Science and Technology, the National Science and Technology Center for disaster Prevention and Rescue has partnered with the disaster Prevention Office of the Yilang City Government of the Philippines (Iloilo City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office), the Farmer Seedling Philippines Branch (Known-You Seed Philippines) and the World vegetable Center (World Vegetable Center) to translate the PBB initiative into real community action to implement a resilient planting demonstration program in long Valley, Yilang City, Philippines in 2019.

Long Valley and resilient planting Program in Yilang, Philippines

Yilang City is located in the alluvial plain, facing the sea and low-lying, vertical and horizontal water system and meandering river. In the past two decades, with the flood control projects, waterfront landscape development and rapid urbanization, the municipal government has gradually moved the informal settlements scattered on the riverbank and the city center to the urban suburbs. Barangay Lanit, located at the northernmost point of Yilang City and serving as a relocation base, mainly houses demolition households for river regulation, dike construction, flood drainage, riverside park trails, commercial development of old airport land, as well as victims of wind disasters and fires (figure 1).

Yilang City is a big city in the central Philippines, located in the sixth political District (Region VI) West Visayas (Western Visayas) area. Long Valley (No. 1), located in the northernmost part of Yilang City, houses residents who have been forced to relocate as a result of flood control and urban development (numbers 2 to 8 in the original village). The picture is drawn by the author.

Remote reconstruction keeps residents away from the risk of their houses being washed away by the river, and gradually upgrades their houses from self-built bamboo and iron houses to concrete houses. however, the reconstruction of houses alone lacks production facilities, which makes their livelihood face more serious challenges.

In the past, temporary workers, construction workers, rickshaw pullers and vendors were mainly employed, and residents whose economic conditions were mostly low-income households were moved from the gap in the urban area to a vast expanse of farmland (figure 2). However, agriculture is not a skill they are familiar with. Coupled with the lack of capital and arable land, they can only grow in the abnormal land around the settlement, or lease land to grow vegetables during the rice fallow period. Even if agricultural enterprises have taught agricultural training courses, it is difficult to encourage residents to switch to agriculture. In the end, they still choose to move to the urban areas for a long distance every day to make a living, relying on social welfare resources or even begging on the streets.

Long Niri partial aerial picture. The settlement group is mainly composed of one-story low-rise houses, including concrete houses built by the government or social welfare organizations, as well as bamboo houses and iron houses built by residents themselves, which are closely adjacent to each other and lack public facilities. At the top of the picture, the farmland is under the jurisdiction of Iloilo Province province; the green roof settlement of 12 buildings is arranged in the left in the middle of the picture, which is an urban aboriginal community-Arti community.

As an one-year, small-scale demonstration plan, how to effectively mobilize the community to participate in agricultural action and how to establish a planting strategy suitable for local and sustainable operation has become the primary key to promote the plan. Therefore, at the suggestion of local community groups, the program implementation team solicited a total of 20 seed trainees from different neighborhoods in long Valley.

At the same time, due to the dry and wet climatic conditions, the dry season crop cultivation from April to June and the rainy season from July to September were initially planned, including the use of market-oriented cash crops and family gardens for self-use. The plan implementation team provides seeds, tools, materials, farmland and all kinds of technical support needed during the workshop, through low-cost and low-tech agricultural knowledge sharing and implementation, to create a community vegetable garden that takes into account climate adaptation, economic income and nutrition intake, and hopes that participating households will turn this year's harvest into the first bucket of gold for agriculture, even if external aid is gradually withdrawn. The community can continue to operate on its own.

The impact of extreme weather and the agriculture that depends on heaven for food

Moving to the edge of the city, away from the flash floods in the rivers and avoiding the disaster of home destruction and death, but the lack of sound infrastructure makes farming only look at heaven for food; and the extreme weather aggravates the impact of adverse farming conditions, even if you work hard in the fields, you may still face the tragic loss of harvest. Neighboring Yilang Province is an important agricultural town in the Philippines, but long Valley is the only village in Yilang City that has designated agricultural land. Although the city government provides agricultural land for planned use, the land has long been abandoned and overgrown with weeds and lack of irrigation and drainage facilities. The community can only dig wells to draw water or wait for Rain Water to irrigate.

The community vegetable garden was originally scheduled to plant drought-tolerant crops at the end of April, but planting could only be suspended because it had not been rained for a long time and turned into drought, the land could not be prepared for preparation, and water supply was given priority to people's livelihood. During the planning period, it coincided with the rotation of mayors, and the municipal handover extended the plan again. Until August, when the plan was restarted to plant moisture-tolerant crops, because the farmland was low-lying and there was serious water accumulation in the rainy season, although the young plants were drained by a pump and then transplanted, the young plants were destroyed by the typhoon torrential rain that followed. The community vegetable garden has become a pond, and the fruits of the participants' efforts have almost gone down the drain (figure 3).

The uncertainty of agricultural income is the key to making it difficult for community residents to muster up the courage to devote themselves to farming. When preparing for land preparation in early August, nearly half of the participating households stopped participating because they worried that the PBB program would not be able to make money. They thought that the longer they worked in the fields, the less time they would spend out making money. For these relocated families, growing vegetables is difficult to generate extra income, so it is better to go back to the urban area to work in exchange for daily salary.

In August 2019, the community vegetable garden was unable to discharge the torrential rain brought by Typhoon Lekima, causing severe stagnant water and flooding all the plants. Provided by the Atti community. Agriculture can also be an opportunity for community development.

The residents of long Valley include not only demolition families from all over Yilang City, but also urban aborigines, the Ati, who are rebuilding their homes here. The Arti are indigenous people in the central Philippines who have been displaced with urban development and become urban poor who lack stable jobs and even rely on street begging for a living. An Arti pastor raised money through the church to buy land in long Valley to establish his own community.

With the help of the municipal government and social welfare institutions, people without fixed abode began to build their own houses, while children who followed adults to make a living on the streets had the opportunity to go to school, and more and more ethnic people came to the community, from 12 at the beginning to 24 families. However, even if you have your own home, life is still difficult. Regarded by society as beggars, unclean people, useless producers, troublemakers, all kinds of stigma make the Attites excluded by their neighbors and excluded from society, making it difficult to find a stable job. As a result, participation in the PBB program has become an opportunity for the Attites to improve their livelihoods.

In order to fairly distribute the opportunities for participation in each settlement, the plan stipulates that each settlement can only send five representatives to participate in the workshop, and the Attites are no exception. But the Attites not only participate in training, they take what they have learned from the workshop back to the community, actively share it with their people, and spontaneously try to adjust their original farming methods on the land of the community.

As the drought was lifted, the May people began to prepare the land in 2019, turning the deformed land around their homes, such as roads and ponds, into a field bed. They also set up barriers at the edge of the fields and piled high field beds to deal with the threat of floods during the rainy season. During sowing and breeding in June, they took the initiative to contact farmers for technical assistance in planting okra, seasonal beans, cassava, towel gourd and papaya, and applied the knowledge of family gardens taught by the World vegetable Center, using native varieties of corn as a fence against wind and insect pests to protect low crops in the inner circle (figure 4).

With the harvest one after another in July and August, the new vegetable garden explored step by step by the Attites has achieved unprecedented gains, not only to feed the children of the community, but also to sell the harvest to the outside world. Originally laughing at the aboriginal neighbors who were fooling around, they were impressed by the Attites and asked for advice on how to grow vegetables in addition to buying vegetables from them. The bumper harvest not only gives the Ati people fresh fruits and vegetables and income from farming, but also gives them a sense of achievement in farming and strengthens their self-and community identity.