The Philippines: Chainsaws and safety for coconut loggers


Coconut lumber processed from trees destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan. Photo: Lesley Wright

Ten men sit in a circle on the wooden floor of a makeshift classroom in Palo.

“One, two, three, four, five…”

They push their palms toward the floor simulating CPR. Children from the nearby temporary housing block giggle. Another group wait their turn to practice CPR on a dummy.

The men are experienced loggers from across the Philippines and they will soon be putting their saws to good use in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, which damaged or destroyed more than 33 million coconut trees in November 2013, putting at risk the livelihoods of more than one million farming households.

Highlights

  • UNDP helping the government salvage the timber from 6 million damaged trees following Haiyan.
  • 2,500 loggers being trained in safety.
  • 60,000 people to be given jobs in processing the wood.

A UNDP supported government scheme is helping to salvage that wood, which will be sold or donated as building material in the reconstruction of the Visayas. To reclaim the valuable timber while helping farmers restore their land, the government is leading a huge operation, known as the Six-by-Six Programme: 6 million trees over six months. Beginning on the islands of Leyte and Samar, 2,500 loggers will process timber from 6 million fallen trees. 60,000 people, including many of the affected farmers, will be paid a daily wage to haul the sawn trees out of the forests.

“Every 12 trees is equal to one home,” says Maurice Dewulf, UNDP’s Country Director. “This is a tremendous undertaking that starts with disaster and ends with houses and jobs for Haiyan’s most vulnerable people.”

Coconut wood has a wide variety of uses – from furniture and decorative objects, such as bowls and souvenirs. Its greatest value right now in affected areas however, is as lumber to feed the housing programme. But the first step is safety. To get things underway, UNDP and the Makati Rescue team from Manila have trained 2,500 prospective loggers in first aid techniques, such as how to carry injured people, stabilize neck injuries, wrap wounds, and give CPR, along with other essential knowledge, such as chainsaw maintenance.

“They need to learn this so they know how to take care of each other,” said Ariel Galvez, one of the 10 trainers and 14-year veteran of the Makati Rescue team.

Nonito Esperat, a seasoned chainsaw operator who has seen his fair share of injuries, agrees. “I never knew how to deal with many of these injuries, but we learned how to assess the work area to make it safe for everybody,” he says, adding that he is looking forward to the next six months of work that will at times take him and his teams to very remote areas.

Once they have received the training, the loggers will spend the next six months cutting down and hauling out trees. This will help thousands of affected farmers to plant their fields and earn an income again, whether by returning to coconut farming or diversifying to other crops.

“Haiyan devastated farms, businesses and livelihoods for millions of people in the Philippines,” says Eden Garde, UNDP’s typhoon programme manager. “Many of these people were already facing poverty and the storm has exacerbated inequality and suffering for millions. The project to clear farms and try to claw back some income from the coconut logs will make a big difference to the lives of many affected by the disaster.”

The programme will run until the end of 2014 with ongoing technical assistance from UNDP.