Saturday, June 19, 2021

WWF-Philippines, Cisco Systems make pitch for food security in Northern Palawan amid pandemic

A farmer plants rice in a field on the island municipality of Dumaran, Northern Palawan. WWF-Philippines and WWF-Singapore are pushing for food security for Dumaran. Photograph © Alo Lantin / WWF-Philippines 

In a bid for sustainable food security, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Philippines, with the help of Cisco Systems, has committed to the construction of food sheds in rural communities in Northern Palawan.

The project comes in response to livelihood disruptions caused by the pandemic. With lockdown restrictions making travel between towns difficult, many farmers and fishers have had difficulty selling their produce. Regional tourism has also plummeted, pushing coastal communities once reliant on visiting tourists further into poverty.

Loss of livelihood and rising poverty has also placed additional pressure on natural resources, as ailing communities increasingly turn to fishing to meet their daily needs.

A fisher checks on his nets off the coast of Araceli, Dumaran. The communities of Dumaran rely on their fisheries for livelihood, but pandemic restrictions have made it difficult for them to sell their produce. Photograph © Alo Lantin / WWF-Philippines

To counteract this, WWF-Philippines will oversee the construction of food sheds in twenty communities across the island of Dumaran. A third-class municipality in Northeastern Palawan, Dumaran is separated from the mainland by a thin stretch of water – and in turn has suffered resource shortages throughout the pandemic.

“What they need is a way to grow their own food in the absence of stable livelihoods. With a food shed, you can grow healthy food for less land, with less of an impact to the environment. Food sheds offer a very good, very stable supplement to their current food production methods,” added WWF-Philippines Project Manager Monci Hinay.

Hinay has overseen the construction of food sheds in farming communities across the country. Through the Sustainable Food Systems program, he and his team have promoted sustainable livelihoods and food securities in towns struggling with sparse resources.

The food sheds slated for construction in Dumaran are a combination of low-tech, low-cost gardening innovations that are easily replicable in rural communities. Made of bamboo poles and recycled plastics, the food sheds combine container gardening and hydroponics systems in a multi-level food production system that can handle both poultry and a wide variety of crops.

Dumaran fishers gather shells along the beach as fishing boats pass behind them. The food sheds to be constructed by the WWF Network will help address food security, while granting communities an alternate source of livelihood for the pandemic and beyond. Photograph © Alo Lantin / WWF-Philippines

Each food shed also lowers environmental pressure from fishing communities. With a sustainable supply of fresh produce growing in each food shed, their reliance on fisheries decreases, granting fish stocks room to grow.

Home to endangered species like the Philippine Cockatoo and the Philippine Pangolin, Dumaran is a biodiversity hotspot and an important site for conservationists. Dumaran and the neighboring Araceli are part of a group of six municipalities that comprise the Northeast Palawan Marine Protected Area (MPA) Network, a system of connected MPAs established by WWF-Philippines for the conservation of the regions’ marine resources.

“We’re looking at a win-win scenario, both for these communities and for the environment. People need to eat. The environment needs room to recover. With these food sheds, both is possible,” said Hinay.

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