Farmer-to-farmer seed delivery to help Dolores recover from Typhoon Hagupit

greenpeace2Dolores, Eastern Samar, Philippines, 19 December 2014 – A farmer-to-farmer delivery of ecological seeds took place today in Dolores, Eastern Samar in the Philippines to help farmers regenerate agricultural land badly damaged by Typhoon Hagupit. It was the first delivery of seeds to Dolores since the typhoon made a direct hit on the town two weeks ago.

A group of farmers from the islands of Cebu, Bohol and Negros – strong movers of sustainable and ecological agriculture – came together in the spirit of ‘Balaynihan’ [1] to aid fellow farmers by collecting ecologically farmed rice seeds, root crops, vegetable seeds and organic fertilizers [2]. The seeds were today presented to 125 of the most affected farmers in Dolores.

Typhoon Hagupit made a direct hit on Dolores on December 6, damaging much of the region’s farmland and crops, before crawling across the rest of the country. Nationally, crop losses have been estimated at PHP1.9 billion (USD $42.5 million).

Dolores Mayor Emiliana Villacarillo said:

“This has been a terrific initiative and different to a government response, which can often be mistaken by farmers as a dole out which can mean they do not give much importance to it. When it’s a farmer-to-farmer exchange, the farmers that offer the seeds are people who have nothing to gain from it, but are doing it out of goodwill, out of a sense of community. It also means farmers on the receiving end can personally offer their thanks. It also changes the perspective of farmers by showing their capacity to help others in need and that our farmers have the solutions at hand. For this, we thank Greenpeace for initiating this approach. Farmers who are experiencing difficulties can now spring back and recoup their losses.”

After traveling close to 600 km by land and sea, an estimated 4 tonnes of rice seeds from Negros, 1 tonne of farmer-developed rice seeds from Bohol and diverse vegetables seeds (for 1,000 families) from Cebu were delivered to Dolores. All the seeds were organically grown.

The seeds will be enough to replant about 125 hectares of rice farmland. Seeds earlier provided by the Department of Agriculture had been planted prior to the typhoon’s landfall. Farmers in Dolores did not have any other seeds to replant damaged fields.

As part of the seed transfer, experts and practitioners of organic farming have also travelled to Dolores to begin training farmers on how to grow healthy, climate-resilient crops using ecological agriculture practices.

Greenpeace and partner organizations responded immediately to the seed recovery mission by arranging and facilitating the skills-sharing and seed delivery, organizing the logistics and acting as a contact point between the farmers in Cebu, Bohol and Negros and the impacted farmers and authorities in Dolores.

“As our climate changes, there is an increasingly urgent need for Filipino farmers to adopt more resilient farming practices. This seed delivery is a good step; it not only helps get farmers in Dolores back on their feet, but it also reinforces the need to strengthen farmer-to-farmer seed exchanges and the setting up of community seed banks and diverse seed stocks,” said Wilhelmina Pelegrina, Ecological Agriculture Campaigner for Greenpeace International.

“Farmers are still the major source of seeds, especially rice, so a reliable system for seed exchanges will prove crucial in building resilience to future climate shocks.”

Resilience can also be improved by the adoption of ecological agriculture, which uses the diversity of nature to help the soil retain more water and stay healthier to provide nutrients to crops in times of extreme weather. Crop diversity also enables farms to withstand different stresses, including climate shocks such as typhoons.

[1] ‘Balaynihan’ is a combination of two words: Balay, a Visayan word for house, and Bayanihan, a Tagalog word which refers to the Filipino trait of working together and extending mutual help to neighbors, especially in times of difficulty. When combined, Balaynihan becomes an act of good will and neighborly love extended to the people of Dolores from across the Visayan islands.

[2] Vegetable seeds and other planting materials that were sent to Dolores, Samar include Tiniguib corn, mungbean, sweet potato, cassava, okra, kangkong (water spinach), radish, string beans, Baguio beans, bitter gourd, carrots, eggplant, tomato, native pechay, lettuce and malunggay (Moringa).