• Typhoon victims
    rebuild fishing and
    aquaculture livelihoods
    in the Philippines

Livelihood training has enabled typhoon Yolanda victims to develop new skills in fish farming and generate an extra source of much-needed income

In November 2013, the super typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan) struck the Philippines, causing huge devastation. In the most affected provinces of rural Leyte and Samar, home to some of the poorest people in the Philippines, over 5,500 people died. Shelters and properties were washed out, and farming and fishing livelihoods were destroyed.

For fisher and seaweed farmer Diego Boleche, from Cagaut village in Eastern Samar, the typhoon destroyed his boats and nets. He made another boat and returned to his mode of living, but he struggled to make enough income for his family’s basic needs.

Fishermen going to the sea, Sogod, Southern Leyte, Philippines. Photo by Leah Jimenez. WorldFish.

Sometimes, after almost a whole day spent fishing, Diego would return with half a kilogram of fish. It was hardly enough to feed his six-member family. At times, Diego’s income from fishing was so low that he could not afford to pay for electricity and schooling fees, causing him and his wife to borrow money from microfinance agencies.

Recovery efforts

To revive the sea fishing and aquaculture sectors, and assist fishers like Diego to recover their livelihoods, WorldFish provided technical training and support to fishers and aquaculture groups in Leyte and eastern Samar from November 2014 to September 2016. This was part of the Catholic Relief Services-funded Emergency Response in Philippines: Yolanda Response and Recovery Project (Option 3 - Aquaculture and Fisheries) project.

A total of 802 individuals received training in one of six livelihood options of their choice: blue swimming crab (235), tilapia (184), grouper (127), mud crab (123), seaweed (119) or milkfish aquaculture (14).

The field-based technical training sessions were given by experts and facilitated by WorldFish. In addition, each participant received a conditional cash grant of PhP 18,000 (USD 360) to buy inputs.

From late 2015 to early 2016, Diego attended five 1-2 day training sessions on farming milkfish, which he chose because he was previously a caretaker in a polyculture farm (milkfish and shrimp) in another province. Despite his previous experience, Diego gained new information on the proper feeding of milkfish, feed formulation, record-keeping, and even deboning milkfish.

Using a cash grant, he built a cage where he grew milkfish fry, which he did in addition to fishing. Within a few months, he was making profit from his fry sales. Within six months, Diego was making more from milkfish aquaculture than he had from fishing.

Fisher and seaweed farmer Diego Boleche from Cagaut village.

With this money, he bought rice, paid for electricity and his children’s school fees, and purchased materials to repair his house. Sometimes, when there was abundant fish in the sea to catch, Diego let his milkfish fry grow into bigger-sized fish, which he could then readily sell for income or use to feed his family.

After the last harvest from the first batch of fish in his cage, he saved some to use as milkfish fry for his next batch, suggesting a promising future for his family.

Julita’s new skills

Another training participant, 39-year-old Julita Matiga from Abejao, Salcedo, Eastern Samar, likewise found the training to be very beneficial.

From late 2015 to early 2016, Julita attended training on tilapia farming. She attended in place of her husband, who was doing construction work in Manila at the time because fishing had become difficult after the typhoon. Julita, a cassava and string bean farmer, knew almost nothing about growing tilapia. Despite this, she was keen to learn and attended the training sessions.

At the five 1-2 day training sessions, she learned about tilapia farming including feeding, harvesting, post-processing to prevent spoilage, and marketing of tilapia. She used this knowledge and the cash grant to construct a tilapia pond where she stocked 1250 fingerlings.

Julita Matiga's small aquaculture pond in Eastern Samar, Philippines.

After three to four months, when the fish had grown bigger, she began partial harvesting by selecting the biggest ones first. By the end, she had harvested around 7 kg for family consumption and was able to sell 32 kilograms as fresh fish, earning her PhP 3200 (USD 64), equating to PhP 100/kg (USD 2/kg). This was a big addition to the household income.

The ability to independently earn this income was empowering to Julita, who no longer had to rely on her husband’s income from construction or the government cash subsidy for her children’s education.

She reports that the addition of tilapia farming to her existing vegetable farming work was not a burden for her. Feeding and observing the fish quickly became part of her daily routine, and, because harvesting tilapia is not as hard as catching fish, she could harvest the fish herself without her husband’s help.

Julita Matiga from Abejao in Eastern Samar took up tilapia farming in early 2016.

Julita’s success, which is inspiring other new tilapia growers, has motivated her to continue with tilapia farming. In the future, she plans to expand her pond to increase the production area. Julita hopes to earn enough money from tilapia sales so that her husband can return home from Manila.

Recovering from the aftermath of typhoon Yolanda was difficult for many people, especially fishers, but the assistance of organizations such as CRS and WorldFish made that process easier by supporting households to develop new livelihoods.