Finding Hope in Desolation

By Jean E. Abarquez

hope in desolation
Photo by Nestor Banuag, Social Development Advocacy Coordinator

With the ongoing siege in Marawi, numerous Internally Displaced People (IDPs) have been inevitably crammed into evacuation centers, slowly being deprived of food and comfort as the war against the Maute terrorists, a violent extremist group, wages on.

In this war that has lasted for almost five months now, a home that was built with memories, a family that comforted them in times of pain and frustration, and a livelihood that sustained them throughout the years has been pulverized and what remains are concrete proofs of inhumane destruction.

Different from the life they had before, various people now look to evacuation centers as their shelters. However, these evacuation centers struggle to maintain these IDPs due to their numbers and in turn, these IDPs are deprived of basic human needs; no blankets to keep them warm at night, no water to quench their thirst and no sufficient food to alleviate their hunger.

The struggle for survival goes on each and every day in these centers. The people of Marawi could have looked to their agriculture had it not been destroyed in the war. With little hope of sustaining themselves in the mean of their own agriculture, these people now count on the help of other cities in the threat of imminent food shortage that could soon starve them.

With this, different institutions and organizations throughout Northern Mindanao like Xavier University Social Development Office, among others, reached out and helped in supplying basic human needs such as clothing, food, and hygienic needs. However, contrary to popular belief, the possibility of food shortage in Region 10 is not because of these efforts to help out in Marawi, but instead it is due to the amount of IDPs that leave Marawi and find refuge in the region. This, in turn, has added up to the region’s population that affects its consumption rate, which might lead to food security threats.

 Growing population of Northern Mindanao

While the precedent increase of food necessity is brought about by the IDPs’ growing number across different evacuation centers, it is however not to be discounted that the population in the region has been increasing, too. Likewise, this brings to mind the narrative that the population is contributory to the status of food supply in the region.

Below are the figures based on the detailed data on IDPs per host municipalities as of September 18, 2017:

 

PROVINCE                FAMILIES                  PERSONS

Bukidnon                     439                            1,869

 

Camiguin                     5                                      38

 

Lanao                          33,343                         154,495

del Norte

 

Misamis                         12                                          511

Occidental

 

Misamis                              5,771                           27,001

Oriental

 

The total population count of Northern Mindanao as of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) office’s August 2017 Quickstats is 4,689,302. Quickstats presents data through tables, graphs and text to highlight key themes of Census conducted in a year. This year, the number of people from Marawi who moved to Region 10 due to the siege is 183, 914. This has added up to the region’s population which goes that a total of 4, 873, 216, including the IDPs, contribute to the increasing consumption of the region.

If this number continues to increase, the threat on food security in the region might potentially turn into a reality. This is a concern that needs to be addressed because as it gets blown out of proportion, generations of people will be affected.

According to the Department of Agriculture Region 10’s former Supervising Agriculturist of Livestock Department Rosalio Lorono, “There is not much effect of Marawi siege to the production of agricultural crops, but more on the demand of food supply since daghan man nag evacuate sa’to, so that means mag increase sad gyud ang food consumption,” Lorono explained.

In addition, Lorono said that shortage of food is possible to happen in Northern Mindanao if the demand of food supply accelerates and the production of agricultural crops declines or is held constant. However, it is only in small probability.

Below is the volume of crop production before and after the Marawi siege happened:

 Crop production in Northern Mindanao: January-March 2017 vs April-July 2017

Crop Volume of Production January-March 2017 April-July 2017
Banana 514, 114 416, 049
Calamansi 368 506
Mango 1, 260 32, 725
Pineapple 340, 068 348, 713

 Banana, Calamansi, Mango and Pineapple are some of the basic crops that region ten is producing. It is evident that there is a change in the volume of production in each of these crops. It goes that Marawi siege may have indirectly contributed in the decline of the production of Banana, however, the production of the other basic crops seem undeterred.

Wala man gyud ingon nga naapektuhan among farm tungod sa panghitabo sa Marawi. As is raman gyapun… mas taas lang ang demand sa uban namo root crops,” said Mrs. Oblad, a farmer from Baongon, Bukidnon.

On the contrary, an officer of National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) holds that production on and near Marawi are greatly affected as some of the farmlands were destroyed by the attacks which temporarily restrained them from operating their farms.

In relation to this, an officer in the Department of Agriculture Region 10 said that the temporary dysfunction of some farmlands in Marawi has no adverse effect in the food security of Northern Mindanao as the city is not the food basket of Region 10.

 Paving the way through Agriculture extension

With the attacks of Maute terrorists, agricultural lands that are supposed to be the livelihood of some IDPs are now of total destruction. However, with proper cultivation, these lands can be used again.

According to Veneranda Larroza, Assistant Dean of the Xavier Univerity College of Agriculture, a transfer of technology would be effective to help out the farmers in Marawi. This transfer of technology necessitates providing trainings to the farmers as to how they are going to improve their production, but the farmers should not be left alone right after providing them assistance from the government. “What I’m pointing out is, there should be consistent help or support especially on the technical aspect for the farmers to really improve their production,” Larroza said.

Moreover, efforts to improve the production must be equally shared among farmers and the government. “There should be a common effort from the part of the farmer and at the same time, from the government to really help our small farmers,” she added.

However, due to the fact that farmers don’t have enough capital to improve their production, should there be alternatives that can provide them sustainable financial support. “Supports do not last forever so dapat there should be livelihood activities provided to them while they stay in the evacuation centers,” she emphasized.

While this is favorable, the government alone should not be the sole capitalizers of agricultural rehabilitation. More importantly, it is during these pressing times that other non-government organizations whose field of interest is on agricultural development can help. With sustained multisectoral efforts, the agricultural setting of the affected areas can be alive again — providing basic inputs for basic necessities for the people either small-scale or large.

 Hopes held high

Despite the vast destruction in Marawi that doomed the hearts of its people, hope within them can still be lit up again through continuous efforts in aiding them through recovery.

Marawi siege wages on and though it keeps destroying homes, plans are now underway to revive the community. For one, a rehabilitation blueprint for the agricultural lands in Marawi and some affected areas in Lanao del Sur has been systematized through the initiatives of the government. This is in coordination with the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Aside from the agriculture rehabilitation plans, DA has also released Php10 million as initial financial assistance to the registered farmers and fishermen as part of their Survival and Recovery (SURE) Loan Program created early this year. This program allows them to borrow money from the government with no added interest on it. This is so to provide immediate relief and help them regain their capacity to earn a living.

Added to these efforts, the Senate finance committee has now allotted P10 billion for the rehabilitation of Marawi in 2018. Senator Loren Legarda, committee chair, said on Thursday, October 5, that the Senate has been “firm” in its position to increase the budget for the rehabilitation of the war-torn city of Marawi.

“In light of the Marawi City’s current situation, we are making available P10 billion of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (NDRRM) Fund for 2018 for the city’s quick recovery, reconstruction, and rehabilitation” Legarda said in a Rappler article.

The government looks on these actions as immediate and sustainable solution to the adverse effects of Marawi siege to its people whose livelihoods are damaged and lost. But with these efforts and initiatives, Marawi will slowly rebuild the peaceful community it once was.  Keeping their hopes high and strong faith in their God, the weeping shall come to an end. When the staggering symphonies of fired bullets cease, the people of Marawi will find their ways back to the Islamic City they are proud to call home.

Sources:

https://www.rappler.com/nation/184365-senate-finance-committee-p10-billion-marawi-rehabilitation-2018

http://www.acpc.gov.ph/sure/

https://psa.gov.ph

http://countrystat.psa.gov.ph

http://bworldonline.com

http://cnnphilippines.com/life/culture/2017/05/29/marawi-as-hometown.html

http://www.xu.edu.ph/xavier-news/63-2017-2018/2851-generosity-fuels-xavier-ateneo-s-tabangmarawi-operations

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/905961/desperation-builds-for-marawi-folk

http://www.philstar.com/business/2017/07/24/1720765/da-starts-marawi-agriculture-rehabilitation

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