On the morning of 8 November 2013, category 5 Typhoon Haiyan (locally known as Yolanda) made a direct hit on the Philippines, a densely populated country of 92 million people, devastating areas in 36 provinces. Haiyan is possibly the most powerful storm ever recorded. While we debate in relative comfort whether this kind of wild climate event is really a symptom of climate change or not, the poorer and weaker parts of our population gets hit hardest. The full force of the wrath of mother earth.
Yolanda first made landfall at Guiuan, Eastern Samar province, with wind speeds of 235 km/h and gusts of 275 km/h. Rain fell at rates of up to 30mm per hour and massive storm surges up to six metres high hit Leyte and Samar islands. Many cities and towns experienced widespread destruction, with as much as 90 per cent of housing destroyed in some areas. Roads are still impassable, and airports and seaports impaired; heavy ships have been thrown inland. Water supply and power are cut; much of the food stocks and other goods are destroyed; many health facilities are not functioning and medical supplies are quickly being exhausted.
To this devastation, permaculture activists in the Philippines, as well as the wider region, swiftly responded, setting up an aid group, called Permaculture Aid Yolanda (PAY). PAY members and partners gathered in Puerto Princesa, Palawan late November, devising strategies and plans.
They have since sent out an observation team led by the aid expert Steve Cran, to affected regions, to connect with local partners, locate potential project sites, and identify needs gaps. The group has set up a base camp in the Maia ecovillage.
The ecovillage will house volunteers and provide training, before deployment to the field. It may also serve as respite for field workers, should the need arise. The ecovillage will also be the training ground for practical permaculture aid and development skills for the locals.
They plan to establish bases in Cebu, Coron, Leyte and Panay. These base camps will serve as hubs for the provision of aid and relief, community training and facilitation, and field projects. In the long term, regional base camps will be assimilated into the local communities as centres for health, education, and other community needs.
While the conventional crisis relief effort is focused more on getting life back on track as before, permaculture aid sees the devastation as an opportunity to develop a better future, more sustainable and resilient one. Sustainable and long-term solutions to crises require an integrated and holistic model that supports affected communities to rebuild their homes and lives in the short term, with a focus on self-sufficiency and resilience, putting the future back into their own hands.
Basic human needs of food, shelter, water and community are addressed from a framework that equally values the health of the environment in which we live.
PAY will tap into local networks, link and liaise with local groups, so through them they can learn and incorporate local and indigenous knowledges and skills. At the same time, they will bring in some novel ideas and techniques developed elsewhere, such as earthship construction, which will be designed to meet the local areas and conditions.
You too can help these devastated communities in the Philippines to rebuild their lives.
Funds are desperately needed, though PAY is operating on a voluntary basis, and all members are self-funded. HRN already has $1000($500 from the Bill Gammage talk) to donate to kick start a fund-raising effort for PAY. HRN is happy to act as its local fund raising point. Even the smallest donation is a plus as it is a local group helping themselves so funds go further. Please contact HRN for bank details
PAY is seeking dedicated volunteers from the permaculture community, and related field. Understanding and commitment to permaculture ethics, a willingness to learn, and minimum availability of ideally 3 months is essential. Prior training and experience would be very useful.
As PAY operates on a collaborative basis, they are open to any contacts and connections within existing aid and development organisations active in the Philippines. Corporate partners who may be able to donate goods in kind are also welcome.
You can follow the PermaAidYolanda team here.
If you think you can help, please get in touch with them at firstname.lastname@example.org.