Building resilience to cope with climate change

by May Anne Ramos, UN Online Volunteer

June 15, 2021

Members of KAMI in San Teodoro, Mindoro in the aftermath of Typhoon Quinta. File photo from DENR-SMARTSeas PH

How do enterprises bounce back from challenges brought about by a disaster or a calamity? Two people’s organizations (PO) supported by the DENR-SMARTSeas PH project demonstrated resilience as they rebuild their biodiversity-friendly enterprises (BDFE) after being affected by a climate-induced disaster.

In October 2020, Typhoon Quinta caused widespread damage in some areas of the country, including Barangay Ilag, San Teodoro, Oriental Mindoro. Corazon Ines, treasurer of Kabisig ng Mangingisda ng Ilag (KAMI) shared that their province is already used to being hit by typhoons, thus, they were already knowledgeable on disaster preparedness and management. However, nobody in their community expected the extent of the damage caused by Typhoon Quinto.

Alam namin na malakas yung bagyo pero hindi namin inexpect na ganoon ang magiging epekto sa amin. May mga nasirang patrol boat, mga lumang kayak na nabutas, tsaka kubo na natangay ng malakas na alon (We knew that the typhoon will be strong, but we did not expect that it would cause us so much damage. Patrol boats and old kayaks were damaged and beach huts were swept away by huge waves),” Corazon relayed. She and her KAMI co-members were devastated by destruction.

Typhoon Quinta had damaged houses and other infrastructures in the community. File photo from DENR-SMARTSeas PH

In southern Palawan, Ricky Saulda, president of Agis-agis Seaweeds Growers Association (ASGA), shared that his organization also had their fair share of problems brought about by the changing climate conditions that affect sea temperature. Members of the Sofornio Espanola-based association complained about the ice-ice disease proliferating in their seaweed farms. Seaweed develops ice-ice disease when stressed due to the changes in water temperature, salinity, and other unfavorable conditions. This attracts bacteria that “whiten” and harden the seaweed’s tissues, thus, deteriorating the seaweed quality.

Kapag ganoon ang nangyari, wala ka talagang magagawa kundi tanggalin mo na ‘yung seaweed at isampay (When that happens there is nothing more you can do but harvest the seaweed and hang-dry it),” Ricky said.

Aside from dealing with ice-ice disease, ASGA members also had to transition to non-use of chemical fertilizer, a PO partner of DENR-SMARTSeas PH. Ricky said it was not an easy habit to break because the fisherfolk were used to using chemical fertilizer to protect the seaweed from ice-ice.

Mas mabilis ang harvest kapag may chemical fertilizer. After 30 days lang pwede ka na mag-harvest pero ang epekto ay nababawasan ang carrageenan (Crop yields quickly when using chemical fertilizer. You can harvest after 30 days, but the effect to seaweed is decreased carrageenan).” Carrageenan is a substance used in certain food products and cosmetics.

The intensity of Typhoon Quinta and ice-ice disease can both be attributed to climate change. Global warming messes up the average temperature and causes frequent flooding and droughts as well as increases the intensity of typhoons. 

Seaweeds are dried and bundled carefully for trading. File photo from DENR-SMARTSeas PH

Despite the adverse impacts of climate change to the marine conservation work and BDFEs of KAMI and AGSA, the two POs refused to be defeated. KAMI members, together with the local government units, religious groups, and other members of the community, got together to clean up the beach and repair the damaged boats, kayaks, and beach huts after the onslaught of the typhoon.

Kailangan magpatuloy. Nagtulungan kami para maayos yung lugar at maging handa kami kapag dumating na ang mga bisita (We needed to press on. We worked together to fix the clean the area, so we’d be ready when the visitors arrived),” said Corazon. The DENR-SMARTSeas PH project provided KAMI with beach gears and an underwater camera for their eco-tour services. 

AGSA members also demonstrated resilience by making an effort to stop using chemical fertilizer. They look forward to undergoing trainings on advanced seaweed farming and identifying the seaweed variety most suitable in their area. These will complement the assistance from the DENR-SMARTSeas PH project such as the construction of BDFE center for seaweed trading, facilitating market linkage, and a sustainability planning workshop.

With the right attitude, tools, and skills in managing their BDFEs, the two POs will surely rise above the challenges posed by climate change.