String beans, cabbage, onions and rice –most were ready for harvest two months ago, but everything was lost when Typhoon Koppu, known locally as Lando, hit the farms in Nueva Ecija, Philippines, including Reynaldo’s.
More than 3 million individuals were affected and 700,000 individuals were displaced by Typhoon Koppu. Recovery reports have partial estimated losses that amounted to PHP10 billion (approximately US$215.9 million).
Since then, the 49-year-old farmer and grandfather to 3-year old Jamaica resorted to setting up earth pits in the area of their old farm to make charcoal from the wood debris that came with the floods.
Reynaldo said, “The barren land used to be fields of green with many trees. You can rest in the small nipa hut when the sun is high. You will be relaxed with pigs and chickens that run around.”
“Now, you will only see rubble, big stones, [and] smoke from pits of charcoal. Everything was washed out. The animals all drowned. After the floodwater subsided, we started to dry debris of wood scattered around us, and burn them to make charcoal. It’s the only way to make ends meet for now,” he added.
In 10 days, Reynaldo earns about PHP 1,400 (approximately US$ 34) from 20 sacks of charcoal. This amount is less than half of what he used to get from farming, sans the smoke and depression that comes as they collect wood from what used to be their farms.
“I want to say that this is only temporary, for us to have something to eat for now. But, I can’t say how long we will do this or when we will start farming again,” Reynaldo said.
“Aside from the farm, I also lost a fish pond. Now, a big boulder, sand and tree logs sit on the water. We lost our home, we lost our clothes. The clothes we wear now were only given to us.”
Amid these, Reynaldo even had more worries for Jamaica, as it was her first time to experience a typhoon of that magnitude.
Reynaldo said, “The day the typhoon hit, she was crying because of the strong winds. She was scared. We were soaking wet inside our small hut. We couldn’t cook or feed her anything because everything was drenched in rain water brought by the strong winds.”
“Now, she is better. She stays near me while I make the earth pits for the charcoal. She sleeps during lunch time as I prepare to burn the wood.”
“I don’t like it that she is exposed to the thick smoke from the charcoal, I know it will not do her well. Lately, she has been suffering from coughs and colds.”
“But for now, we have to make ends meet and the only option for us right now is burning charcoal. If we can, we would always want to go back to farming. It’s our real livelihood,” Reynaldo added.
Save the Children, with ACF (Action Against Hunger) and CARE (Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere), is working as a consortium for a 4-month response (December 2015 – March 2016) that focuses in an emergency livelihoods recovery support project funded by ECHO (European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection). Through coordinated assessments, the organizations identified access to quick livelihood recovery support as the most critical to the affected populations.