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What does local climate change adaptation look like?

On Friday, the board of the People’s Survival Fund (PSF), a special annual fund in the National Treasury intended to finance local climate change adaptation initiatives, announced that it has given the green light for two projects in Mindanao.

The move comes over five years since the fund was created through the enactment of Republic Act 10174 in July 2011.

The two projects worth PHP 120 million were proposed by the local government units (LGUs) of Lanuza in Surigao del Sur and del Carmen in Surigao del Norte.

Oxfam has worked with the LGUs of Lanuza and del Carmen from 2012 to 2014 in the implementation of the BINDS project (Building Resilient and Adaptive Communities and Institutions in Mindanao), which was supported by the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

Through the collective action of all stakeholders, the BINDS Project helped improve the ability of communities and local institutions to build livelihoods that could withstand climate change, develop their own climate-sensitive strategies, and enhance their skills and knowledge on responding to disasters and adapting to climate change.

Since 2013, Oxfam, together with local NGO partners, also provided technical support in the crafting of the PSF Project Proposals of both municipalities.

While Oxfam welcomes the approval of the projects, we also look forward to learning more about how LGUs will use the PSF grants to enhance their resiliency and put vulnerable groups, such as women, children, the elderly and people with disabilities in a position where they can grow and thrive despite the uncertainties associated with climate change.

Last month, I re-visited the municipality of Lanuza together with documentary photographer VJ Villafranca to find out more about how the LGU has been continuing its climate change adaptation program. According to Lanuza’s Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Officer, John Largo, their program follows a “ridge-to-reef ecosystem approach”, which involves looking at mountains and terrestrial forests down to the river systems, going through mangrove areas, and finally ending in the coast lines to come up with an integrated set of strategies to manage natural resources while contributing to poverty reduction, creating sustainable livelihoods and enhancing climate resilience.

After our visit, it became clearer why, for low-income, climate-vulnerable municipalities like Lanuza, the PSF is an important mechanism to help them adapt to the harsh realities of climate change, a phenomenon that is greatly affecting them even if they are least responsible for causing it. 

Introduction by Airah Cadiogan, Climate Policy and Campaigns Officer for Oxfam in the Philippines. All photos by VJ Villafranca/Oxfam

A surfer emerges from the sea in Lanuza, Surigao del Sur. The small town (2015 total population: 12,001) comes alive during the November surf season when the local economy booms with the arrival of dozens of foreign and national professional and amateur surfers. But because of its location along the eastern seaboard of Mindanao, Lanuza is vulnerable to tidal surges and tsunamis that come from the Pacific Ocean. Photo by VJ Villafranca/Oxfam

A fisherman heads out to cast his fish cage in the sea. The coastal communities of Lanuza make their living from fishing, but due to unsustainable fishing activities of ‘ilegalistas’ (illegal fishermen mainly from outside Lanuza), along with the impacts of climate change, marine resources have deteriorated and fish catches have been declining over the last decade. For a 4th class municipality like Lanuza, the PSF is an opportunity to secure much-needed funds to help them adapt to climate change. Photo by VJ Villafranca/Oxfam

Lanuza residents living near the coast, like this fisherman who is preparing to cast his net in the sea, say they have little knowledge of the impacts of climate change except that, when a typhoon is coming, they should heed the instructions of local authorities. Disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation (DRR-CCA) information and education, therefore, continue to be a priority for the local government. Photo by VJ Villafranca/Oxfam

The rehabilitation and development of local mangrove and beach forests is a component of Lanuza’s PSF project proposal. Mangrove forests act as a buffer against powerful waves caused by tsunamis and powerful storms, thus protecting inland areas. Mangrove trees also help accumulate silt and create a barrier against salt water. In Lanuza, as in other areas in the Philippines, many mangrove forests have been lost over the years due to wood harvesting and reclamation for agricultural purposes. Photo by VJ Villafranca/Oxfam

A barangay official from Sitio Ipil in Barangay Agsam points to an old nipa lambanog distillation facility. Nipa lambanog or ‘nipa wine’ is a strong alcoholic drink made from the sap of various nipa plant species. In the past, local communities who get their income from producing nipa lambanog would cut mangrove trees and use these as firewood for the distillation process. However, the local government, with support from national government agencies, recently opened a new distillation facility that uses coconut husks, a more sustainable source of energy for nipa lambanog producers. Photo by VJ Villafranca/Oxfam

Raquel and Leonardo Picasales, a married couple, stand in front of their farm outhouse in Sitio Lambonao, Barangay Poblacion (Zone III) in Lanuza. They are banana and cacao farmers, who have noticed the effects of climate change over the years. “Malaki ang pagbabago ng panahon dito sa amin. Bukod sa uminit, kumonti rin ang ulan. Pero kung dumating naman ang ulan, biglang buhos kaya madalas bumabaha ang nagkakaroon ng landslide din,” said Raquel. Leonardo is also a local Mamanwa tribal leader, who helps in the management of natural resources between indigenous people and the LGU, while Raquel works at an LGU-run cacao nursery that supplies seedlings to farmers. Photo by VJ Villafranca/Oxfam

Joseph Bunawe, an indigenous Manobo farmer, harvests abaca in Sito Himatagan, Barangay Agsam, an area covered by a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT). Abaca farming has provided indigenous tribes in the municipality with a climate-resilient source of income, and was introduced as part of the BINDS (Building Resilient and Adaptive Communities and Institutions in Mindanao) project implemented by Oxfam and NGO partners from 2012-2014, with support from the Australian Government. “Dati farm laborer lang kami sa mga plantasyon ng saging kaya mahirap ang buhay namin. Pero dahil sa abaca farming, kami ng asawa ko, tumaas ang kita namin, napapag-aral namin ang dalawa naming anak, at nakapagpatayo na kami ng sarili naming bahay,” said Joseph, whose wife Joan is also an abaca farmer. Photo by VJ Villafranca/Oxfam

Felipa Dagaang, an indigenous Manobo farmer, shows how abaca is manually stripped in their community’s facility in Sitio Himatagan, Barangay Agsam. “Malaki ang tulong sa amin ng abaca kasi bukod sa mataas ang kinikita namin dito, kayang-kaya itong gawin ng kababaihan. Kahit na may bagyo, hindi din madaling masira ang abaca at madali lang silang itamin ulit,” said Felipa. Photo by VJ Villafranca/Oxfam

Johans Arreza, municipal environment and natural resources office (MENRO) staff, shows the area where the nursery for dipterocarp trees will be built if their PSF proposal is approved. The reforestation of the mountain is a component of Lanuza’s PSF Project Proposal, which adopts a “ridge to reef ecosystem approach”. This involves looking at mountains and terrestrial forests down to the river systems, going through mangrove areas, and finally ending in the coast lines to come up with an integrated set of strategies to manage natural resources while contributing to poverty reduction, creating sustainable livelihoods and enhancing climate resilience.

The encouragement of backyard gardening and introduction of agro-forestry are ways the local government of Lanuza has been supporting indigenous Mamanwa and Manobo tribes living in ancestral domains to be more food secure despite the changing climate. Photo by VJ Villafranca/Oxfam

A woman farmer from the Mamanwa tribe poses for a portrait in front of her house in Sitio Himatagan, Barangay Agsam. Indigenous peoples have been actively involved in the LGU’s efforts to make all communities more resilient to climate change. Photo by VJ Villafranca/Oxfam