A Day in the life: A disaster risk reduction specialist in the Philippines
Aug 10, 2017
The Philippines is one of the ten most vulnerable countries to climate change. The country is impacted by tropical storms, heavy precipitation and flooding. In November 2013, the country suffered the catastrophic devastation of Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest typhoons ever recorded. CARE has implemented emergency and development projects in the Philippines with focus on disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation (CCA) primarily to build and increase peoples’ resilience.
Deeji Baclig, CARE Philippines’ Disaster Risk Reduction Specialist, shares how she leads CARE’s work in helping people in rural communities protect the environment and adapt to a changing climate.
I wake up and start preparing for my early morning flight to Iloilo, one of the provinces severely affected by typhoon Haiyan in 2013. I am based in Manila and I frequently travel to various communities supported by CARE to conduct training sessions with the communities, provide technical assistance to our local partners, and ensure that our project participants are properly guided in applying the knowledge and techniques we impart.
I just arrived in Iloilo from Manila. From the airport, I travel to San Dionisio, a coastal town in the Northern part of the province where we carry out our seaweed production project. CARE provides financial support and training to ten rural villages in San Dionisio to plant and harvest seaweed – which is one of the most important aquaculture commodities in the Philippines.
I regularly meet with the municipal council in San Dionisio, which is also the legislative body. In order for us to gain community support for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation, it is essential that we also collaborate with the government to protect San Dionisio’s marine biodiversity. I present to them a study conducted by CARE on coastal resource management and protection focusing on seaweed production.
In order to complement the government’s initiatives, I also meet with the Municipal Fisheries Officer to understand their plans and also present them with our line of activities. CARE has been providing technical assistance to the fishermen and women through the introduction of a variety of climate-resilient seaweed, as well as climate-smart technologies and techniques.
Most of the time, I work with the local authorities and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to address certain challenges being experienced by our the people in our project. One concrete example is the recent El Niño climatic event. Aside from getting less fish, some of their seaweed is affected by what the locals call “ice-ice” disease due to the extreme heat. This particular disease is caused when changes in salinity (the amount of salt in the water), ocean temperature and light intensity give stress to seaweed and attract bacteria in the water. This leads to a decrease in production and quality as seaweed dies or becomes brittle. In response to this, we taught the project participants how they can prevent this from happening through deep sea planting. This type of planting ensures the seawater temperature stays between 27 and 30 degree Centigrade – the ideal temperature for growing seaweed.
After lunch, I visit the seaweed plantations located near the shore. CARE’s project participants formed community associations so they could become organized in running their businesses. Some associations are led by women and there is even one being managed by all women members. During my visit, I monitor their agricultural and production techniques, how they ensure that they are not harming the environment, and address the challenges they experience. We also advise the fishermen and women not to clear seagrass because it filters pollutants and provides food and habitat to certain marine creatures. My visit also allows me to catch up with our project beneficiaries and talk about not just their businesses but also the positive changes in their lives. It feels great to also witness their personal development and how they are able to overcome their challenges. I am proud to say that these people have become resilient and know how to prepare for future disasters.
It’s time for me to go back to the city and catch up on emails and other reports I need to write. I believe that my experiences in various communities I visit give me extra motivation to do my job because this is not just about executing my work plan. I love spending time with people in the communities and helping them adapt to climate change. As a mother, I know that if we protect our natural resources, this also helps the future generation. I want my son to also enjoy a healthy environment and become resilient to disasters.