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Story by Aimee Liz Malingan | Monitoring and Evaluation Officer | Heifer Philippines
Input from Irene Lacia | Project Supervisor | HEED Foundation and Alma Ables | Community Facilitator | HEED Foundation
Photos by Jun Ayensa | Regional Program Manager | Heifer Southern Philippines

Beyond the normal unpredictable results of agricultural production, farmers must cope with the risk of natural calamities. Resiliency during disasters depends on farmers’ capacity to deal with the disruption of farming activities in order to ensure food availability and sustain the production system.

On December 4, 2012, Typhoon Bopha devastated communities in Southern Mindanao and left residents not only economically vulnerable, but also agriculturally incapacitated. Crop farms, livestock, farm equipment and structures were damaged. The affected communities include Heifer partner families in Santa Josefa, Agusan del Sur. Annie Bergman, senior writer for World Ark magazine, reported that although Heifer participants fared so much better than their neighbors, it will still take a long time to recover. Despite their group savings and having pigs to sell, the typhoon severely damaged the farmer’s field school and farm inputs like the feed mill.

Following the typhoon, Heifer families had to make their own sustenance a priority over feed for their animals. This compromised the health of the pigs and caused a delay in plans for Passing on the Gift® to others. In the midst of these challenges, Heifer-assisted self-help groups (SHGs) mobilized themselves to cope with and rise above the situation. The more resilient families extended their time and resources to help fellow partner families who were most affected by the calamity.

Nanay Minda, affectionately known as “Mother Minda,” and her family were less affected by the typhoon than others, so she enthusiastically led the group of farm families to bounce back. She assisted HEED (Health, Education, Environment, Development) Foundation and Heifer in organizing groups for the distribution of emergency relief goods, rehabilitation of the farmer’s field school, feed mill and mini-warehouse, and even initiated additional external resources from the Department of Agriculture of the Caraga region. Furthermore, she donated more than half of the cash prize she received as a winner of Heifer’s 2012 Golden Talent Award.

Minda, adoptive mother of two, volunteered to care for the pigs, both fattening and gilt, of families who lost the capacity to sustain them. She selflessly volunteered to ensure the continuity of Passing on the Gift®. According to Irene Lacia, project supervisor of HEED Foundation, this arrangement has now produced new sets of healthy piglets, a fattened pig which was once frail and sickly, and new hope to increase the income of needy, disaster-stricken families. Alma Ables, community facilitator of HEED Foundation, also shared, “In the face of disaster, the SHGs were able to translate the 12 values they learned when they attended the Cornerstones (12 Cornerstones for Just and Sustainable Development) workshop, especially ‘Sharing and Caring’ for other SHG members to sustain their improved ‘Nutrition and Income.’ Five months after the disaster, Nanay Minda donated one pig to celebrate their ability to rise above the challenges during the recent visit of Heifer leaders from headquarters.”

One SHG member commented on the Community Managed Disaster Risk Reduction (CMDRR) training recently conducted by Heifer with HEED in Santa Josefa: “The SHGs are more confident to cope during disaster than non-SHG members. Had the training been conducted prior to Bopha, the SHGs would have been even more prepared, with minimal damage to farms and property and higher capacity to help out less-privileged members of the community who are more dependent on external relief during disasters.”

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Heifer International

Heifer International is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization working with communities to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth.