走過戀愛樂土:尼泊爾小情人

Mina與Mahato在家門前合照

Mina與Mahato在家門前合照

近年,情人節的氣氛在香港愈來愈濃烈,燭光晚餐、情人節禮物、戀人巧克力及鮮花、whatsapp 祝福、臉書上一幅幅情侶的溫馨合照,濃郁得像連空氣中也瀰漫著一種情人節的味道……當全城快被情人節的浪漫氣氛掩蓋時,我卻想起數月前在尼泊爾工作時認識的一對小情人。妻子Mina在新婚時為著家庭有更好的未來而努力工作,甚至凌晨三點起床幹活,丈夫Mahato則在外國辛苦工作六年後回到尼泊爾,守候在太太身旁,更每日為妻兒準備晚飯,一起黙黙守護著家庭、工作和社區,綻放著生活的姿彩。

在他們居住的尼泊爾小農村,生活簡樸,日出而作,日入而息,大概不會為情人節而慶祝,但這對有情人展現的互相廝守,不是比濃縮在一天的節日氣氛更浪漫嗎?沐浴在這種細水長流的愛情中,不才是真正的有情人嗎?

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印證「貧窮源於不公平」

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文:樂施會國際項目總監 陳美玲

在從事扶貧工作的歲月裡,「貧窮源於不公平」成了我的座右銘,並在無數次接觸受惠人的經歷中,印證了這句說話。

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樂施會五年同行  緬甸社區林業成果纍纍

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緬甸居民的土地權益經常遭受到無理侵害。隨著昂山素姬領導的全國民主聯盟近月上台執政,緬甸民眾期盼局面得以扭轉,但由於軍人仍然擁有巨大權力和商業利益,預期改革步伐緩慢,要扭轉克欽邦土地掠奪的問題看來不是短期內能辦到的事。更何況,克欽邦內戰還沒有結束,軍人攬權的情況看來仍然持續。

文/圖:李育成(樂施會高級項目幹事—倡議(亞洲))

自從去年10月前赴緬甸克欽邦訪點,距今已大半年了。最近,從緬甸同事手上收到最新的項目評估報告,回顧和總結了樂施會五年多對支援克欽邦社區林業的貢獻,勾起我訪點時的回憶。

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克欽邦的森林用戶小組利用自製的地勢模型,更好地掌握及規劃自己社區的林地使用。

樂施會可說是其中一個支援克欽邦居民保護土地權益的先行者。正如我於去年10月的博文中提到,克欽邦在內戰交織之下,當地居民面對管治失效,政策措施不彰,當地社區只能靠自發組織起來管理自己的林地。在樂施會的支持下,當地居民成功爭取社區林業的土地業權,社區從小規模生產和出售非林木森林產品增加了收入,並且增強了居民與商人的議價能力。當地居民會把增加了的收入用於孩子的教育經費,及家庭的日常需要。而且,居民也成立了森林用戶小組,集資購買機器,增加生產量。

取得的林地業權的土地面積相等於八個香港

就讓我列舉一些統計數字來說明夥伴機構在當地工作多年所取得的成果。過去五年,樂施會的合作伙伴成功取得22項社區林業的土地業權,涉及土地總面積21,443畝,相等於8個香港陸地總面積。

樂施會不單給予居民物質上的支持,也加強居民認識法律賦予的保障。要一般農民做到知法懂法,並通過法律保障自己的土地權,是不容易的一件事,需要的不只是意識,更需要恆心。當地社區花了大量時間和精力,理解複雜不易懂的法律條文,並且通過法律與佔據土地的商人周旋。部分社區更從軍人或商人手上討回農地,殊不簡單。成功案例得來不易,但卻鼓勵當地社區堅持討回土地的希望和決心,也讓他們有足夠的信心向當地林業和土地部門爭取。

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克欽邦的森林用戶小組成員正在向樂施會的工作人員,介紹社區森林的管理情況。

同時,樂施會支持的多個非政府合作伙伴,已經成為了由緬甸林業部組成的國家森林工作小組的諮詢成員,也有克欽邦省級的合作伙伴成為了省級森林工作小組的諮詢成員,他們也自發組織省級議會、機關和其他公民社會參與制定社區森林政策文件和管理計劃,推動克欽邦參與式社區森林的可持續發展,也打開了當地公民社會直接影響政府決策的渠道。

以替代種植之名 佔據大量土地

儘管當地居民在保衛土地取得驕人成就,但仍有很多新挑戰迎著我們,我們絕不能放鬆。

樂施會合作伙伴的工作人員,正在向村民講解現時社區森林面臨的新挑戰--外來農業投資的侵蝕。

樂施會合作伙伴的工作人員,正在向村民講解現時社區森林面臨的新挑戰--外來農業投資的侵蝕。

首先,地方政府管治長期存在缺失。為將倡議改革的工作能更有效地推行,當地合作夥伴不得不聯合起來,把倡議的工作從地方層面提升至國家層面。此外,近年來大量外來農業投資湧入當地,尤其是以替代罌粟種植之名而來的,佔據或充公了大量土地,並用作種植橡膠樹或其他種植年期長的經濟作物,很多當地小農戶因此而被驅逐。當地人都相信,支持這些土地和自然資源掠奪行為的,都是當地政府、軍人和商人合謀。

隨著昂山素姬領導的全國民主聯盟近月上台執政,緬甸民眾期盼局面得以扭轉,但由於軍人仍然擁有巨大權力和商業利益,預期改革步伐緩慢,要扭轉克欽邦土地掠奪的問題看來不是短期內能辦到的事。更何況,克欽邦內戰還沒有結束,軍人攬權的情況看來仍然持續。

即使面對如此困境,樂施會的項目評估人員認為應繼續支持克欽邦的工作,並且建議回應新出現的形勢,找出推動改變的槓桿點,作出針對性的社區支援和倡議工作,特別是由外來農業投資引起的土地掠奪,及女性的土地權益長期備受忽視等問題。事實上,樂施會在過去五年取得了重要的成果,但政府管治缺失,大量外來農業投資湧入當地,仍未結束的克欽邦內戰,以至是軍人攬權等因素,都會削弱我們扶貧工作的效果。如何使我們的成果長遠紮根,不致返貧,讓大眾多年的捐助持續有效而用得其所,成為了我們工作的重中之重。

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李育成為高級項目幹事──倡議(亞洲),主要工作是倡導外商農業企業在發展中國家投資時,要對小農戶負責,並促進政府執行保障小農的相關政策,以改善他們的生計。育成熟悉湄公河地區的發展問題,並且相信通過規管外商投資,可讓當地社區從中得益。除了日常工作,他亦喜歡旅遊,欣賞文化古蹟和自然風光。

【3.8婦女節】女生有話兒

在樂施會進行傳訊工作,我經常搜羅來自世界各地的故事,呈現在公眾眼前。搜集資料期間,一幀幀充滿生命力的照片、一段段盛載著理想的說話,常常撼動我心。

在樂施會工作的發展中國家,社會給女性的定型及標籤,成為了一個個女生的無形枷鎖,往往令女性更難以脫離貧窮的循環。在中亞、南亞、南美的女生們,都有一個夢想:希望自己可以脫離「貧窮人生」,而教育則成了脫貧的鑰匙。

活在早婚、貧窮的環境中,她們盡力追夢,發掘一己所長。藉今天婦女節,看看女生怎麼說?

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「正因為旁人說女生不能習空手道,我才更要學好!」-Roshana@尼泊爾

自尼泊爾地震後,Roshana以巴士為家。正就讀大學二年級的她,面對校舍倒塌,從沒放棄上學,更從沒放棄空手道。

我們正在當地重開學校,支援像Roshana一樣的女生,重返校園生活。

 

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「我喜歡踢足球、打羽毛球,因為不分性別,可以男女生一起玩!」-Chandra@孟加拉

孟加拉的女性地位低微,只有在玩球類活動時,Chandra才可以與男生一較高下。我們在當地推動女生接受教育,實現性別平等!

 

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「我希望可以成為老師,教育其他小女孩。」-Amna@巴基斯坦

在巴基斯坦,早婚情況嚴重,家人普遍反對女孩入學,認為會減少家裡的勞動力。我們在當地成立女子學校,鼓勵家長送女孩到學校上課,今天,Amna不斷學習,追逐她的夢想。

 

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「水災也不能停止學習!」-玻利維亞女生

在玻利維亞,水災令孩子未能離家上學。老師從沒放棄這夥女孩子,四出邀請媽媽們送孩子上學,又指導孩子繪畫最常見的動物。

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覃詠欣 (Maggie) (中),在樂施會負責傳訊工作。看到受惠者在參與項目後展露著滿足而自信的笑容,聽著他們的經歷、改變,成了我最大的原動力。

Sustainable farming nourishes land and health

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In order for Nepal to get back on its feet after the earthquake last month, it is important they restore their livelihoods. That means farmers need to be planting their crops now in time for monsoon season, which begins in June.

Over the years, I have seen how Nepalese farmers use innovative and sustainable ways to secure their livelihoods. Sustainable farming is one example – it is simple and nourishes the land. This way of farming requires optimising the scarce water resources, and the use of local manure from plants and animals.

Many people doubt whether this method of farming can feed a growing world population – projected to reach over 9 billion by 2030  however, the UN estimates that the world wastes one third of its food annually. In Hong Kong, the amount of food waste amounts to 3,500 tonnes every day. One cannot help but reflect on such problems as unequal food distribution and natural disasters that lead to hunger in the world.

If our soil, water, land and seed resources are not contaminated, depleted and appropriated, our food system will remain sustainable, and our food, nutritious, delicious and less expensive.

During my trip to Nepal in 2014, I witnessed how men and women used sustainable technology to grow fresh vegetables. In fact, doing things like growing diversified crops in hilly areas in Nawalparasi, Nepal, is uncommon. As the market is quite far away and transportation to and from it is infrequent, people tend to grow non-perishable food such as ginger, yam and millet. However, growing vegetables and raising chickens have become popular as they help increase families’ nutritional intake and earn them a decent disposable income.

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Bahadar, a male teacher and producer of vegetables, shows his healthy cabbage seedlings, which will be sold to customers soon.

While many men have left the area in search of economic opportunities, Bahadar, a school teacher, prefers to stay behind to seize the opportunities a local NGO – Sahamati – offers in areas of water resource and capacity building. He has participated in contour landscaping to preserve water and to prevent soil erosion when flash floods come. He also provides village clients with vegetable seedlings for valuable crops such as cabbage, tomatoes and onions. His clients might not be able to afford a whole packet of seeds or it may not be economical to buy a whole packet of seeds for a small piece of land, but with this service, many small plots of land can be put into production. This kind of service is becoming common in other Asian countries. However, in this particular area in Nepal, women usually have a heavy workload around the home, so having this kind of service can help ensure that the effort they spend planting is more effective as the survival of seedlings are guaranteed.

Compared to Southern Taiwan, established seedling centres are welcomed by small farmers.

Economical sustainability is something that farmers aim to achieve. Ensuring the quality and reducing the cost of seeds are important services agricultural cooperatives provide their members. The Nepalese cooperative in Mukundapur, supported by Sahamati, for instance, plans to buy seeds in bulk in order to drive down the cost of it.

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Pool villagers dug to store used water from a nearby public tap for bathing. This stored grey water will be used for irrigation by gravity

Water, however, is also a scarce resource in hilly areas. Although expanding long pipes to pump water to tanks, and from there to farmland is considered essential, recycling water through such innovative methods as treating grey water (water that has been used for bathing, cleaning and such) to irrigate fields is perhaps just as important. By doing this, farmers are able to grow crops even when dry season is prolonged.

In sustainable agriculture, integrated pest management helps protect farmers’ crops from harmful insects which could destroy as much as 30 per cent of their harvest. Growing marigold or other such plants or herbs alongside crops is one way of keeping unwelcome harmful insects at bay. Our farmers in Nepal have also experimented with homemade pesticides, made from a unique formula suitable for their fields. The effectiveness of this spray depends on farmers’ experimentation.  As they experiment, they share knowledge, experience and methods of production with one another.

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Bahadar tries a formula of bio-pesticide to treat harmful insects by fermenting materials such as chilly, tobacco residues or leaves, native tree leaves such as neem, etc.

Mayling sentada en el cespedMayling Chan is the International Programme Director at Oxfam Hong Kong.

 

 

世上的幸福不是必然

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樂施會與歐盟支持老撾農村建造引水灌溉設施,既可防洪,引水灌溉,也可養殖禽鳥,化洪水為可持續生計。

文/圖:李育成

我們原本以為幸福是與生俱來的,偏偏世界還有很多人沒法擁有。

我想說的並不一定是什麼大災難、大飢荒奪去人們的幸福,而是一些保護我們生命財產的基礎建設,一些維護人們基本權利的組織和機構,這些對資源充足的社會,並不難獲取的東西,對很多發展中國家的人民而言,卻是苦了一輩子也沒法得到。

樂施會與歐盟支持老撾農村建造吊橋,幫助低地小農戶逃生,並讓他們開墾鄰近大片肥沃的土地,保障他們的長遠生計。

樂施會與歐盟支持老撾農村建造吊橋,幫助低地小農戶逃生,並讓他們開墾鄰近大片肥沃的土地,保障他們的長遠生計。

三月底,我與樂施會會員探訪老撾萬象省嘎西區(Kasi)多條農村,並考察樂施會與歐盟多年來於當地共同支持的基礎建設,包括水利灌溉設施、吊橋和防洪堤。活動讓我們了解,這些設施如何保障當地小農戶的生命財產,防止水災的發生,並有效提高農業生產。

今天,我們看到小農戶可以化洪水為灌溉用水,看到吊橋幫助低地小農戶逃生,並開墾鄰近大片肥沃的土地,也看到防洪堤保護了村公所和學校,讓小農戶子弟得以安全上學,這一切原來都是來之不易。

由於體制長期存在的問題,導致這些基建很遲才出現,更不要說中間要經歷過多少教訓,克服多少困難,才換到今日的成果。當然,作為扶貧發展機構,樂施會也不滿足於單單支持基建。事實上,缺乏良好的管理制度,基建也會走向衰敗。

老撾小農戶把他們新鮮種植的糯玉米煮熟並出售。

老撾小農戶把他們新鮮種植的糯玉米煮熟並出售。

樂施會通過老撾當地的農業技術中心,支持女農戶種植並加工木薯,製成木薯片在當地市場出售,令農戶每月平均增加大概3,000元港元的收入,因而提升農村婦女的經濟地位。

樂施會通過老撾當地的農業技術中心,支持女農戶種植並加工木薯,製成木薯片在當地市場出售,令農戶每月平均增加大概3,000元港元的收入,因而提升農村婦女的經濟地位。

所以,樂施會也支持小農戶和弱勢社群充權,讓他們意識到爭取基本權利的重要性。例如,我們支持老撾少數民族婦女組織語言班,鼓勵她們學習老撾語以融入社會,並教授傳統手工藝品的製作,及幫助她們組織手工藝品社企,增加收入。我們同時支持農民進行低農藥或有機耕作,以保障自己和消

樂施會支持老撾當地的農業技術中心,傳播低農藥的種植技術,保障小農戶自己和消費者健康。圖為參加計劃的女農戶正在清洗蔬菜,並準備出售給當地的批發商人,及在市場出售。

樂施會支持老撾當地的農業技術中心,傳播低農藥的種植技術,保障小農戶自己和消費者健康。圖為參加計劃的女農戶正在清洗蔬菜,並準備出售給當地的批發商人,及在市場出售。

費者健康,並協助當地社會成立有機農夫市場。

再好的設施,再好的制度,如果我們不好好維護,其實也是徒然。作為樂施會的員工,並不會希望小農戶要永遠依賴援助,而是希望有一天那些受助國家的設施變得完善,那些保障小農戶權利的制度被確立。當這一天來到,樂施會便不再需要存在。但無論設施及制度的建設都需時,因此對很多發展中國家來說,離樂施會「光榮引退」的日子仍然尚早。

 

 

 

profile pix李育成為高級項目幹事,主要工作是倡導外商農業企業在發展中國家投資時,要對小農戶負責,並促進政府執行保障小農的相關政策,以改善他們的生計。育成熟悉湄公河地區的發展問題,並且相信通過規管外商投資,可讓當地社區從中得益。除了日常工作,他亦喜歡旅遊,欣賞文化古蹟和自然風光。

Dignified amidst Disasters

Women and men in Kashmore District, Sindh Province of Pakistan attend village development committee meetings to discuss about water management and hygiene in their own community. Photo: Kashif Ghani / Oxfam

By Phyllis Cheung

Initial hopes that Pakistan would avoid a third successive year of floods were dashed in early September 2012 when the late monsoon rains triggered flooding in southern Punjab, northern Sindh, and eastern Balochistan. At least 450 people lost their lives and over 4.8 million people were affected, with an estimated 636,438 homes damaged or destroyed.

Fouzia Bibi, a resident of Mir Hazar Khan Bacharani in Kashmore District, recalled: “When the floods hit, we couldn’t leave our village. Even if we’d been able to, there was nowhere for us to go to. After heavy rain that continued for many days, the entire village was badly damaged. There was flood water all around us. Our crops were lost, our houses were either completely or partly destroyed, and our livestock suffered. With every passing day, the food we’d stored was running out and there were diseases spreading in the village because of stagnant flood water. Almost everyone I knew either had fever or diarrhoea. But in these conditions it was impossible to afford a doctor.”

To reduce suffering and vulnerability as well as restore the dignity of the most severely affected people, Oxfam started its flood response programme almost immediately in Kashmore, one of the worst affected districts that were already hit by the floods in 2010 and 2011, providing improved access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities, hygiene promotion and nutrition awareness sessions, and distribution of cash grants and tools.

One of Oxfam’s cash-for-work schemes provided equipment and fuel to pump the stagnant flood water out from the area. Each family, including Fouzia’s, received 7,500 Pakistani rupees (about HK$572) to pump water out from her village.

One of the cash-for-work schemes decided by Fouzia’s village community was the provision of equipment and fuel to pump the stagnant flood water out from the area.

“The cash-for-work scheme was the best thing that could have happened to us,” Fouzia said. The men in the village couldn’t go to surrounding places to look for work because leaving their families in such conditions was dangerous. With the water pumped out, my husband could go and look for work and bring money back to the family. And I was able to buy food and other necessities for my family.”

Fouzia feels dignified that she was not just “allotted” relief aid but she worked for her grant and could decide for her family on what to buy with the cash. “I feel the community can recover from the floods faster in a positive way.”

Oxfam installed hand washing devices near the latrines to encourage people to wash their hands after using the latrines.

With health and hygiene training and information, Fouzia’s village is even cleaner than before the floods. “The animal waste in the area was buried. After that, the whole village was sprayed with strong and effective pesticides. I am glad latrines and bathing spaces are built and safe water is available. Because of hygiene promotion, diseases were prevented in my family.”

But besides safe water, bathing spaces and a cleaner environment, Fouzia is also thankful for her own development.

“I was happy that women were encouraged to participate in the village meetings. I, too, joined the meetings and we all decided that this work scheme was the best for our village. The village development committee is made up of openly elected members in the community, and we are helping each other to overcome the adverse effects of the floods. Now I feel responsible for my village.”

Phyllis Cheung is Regional Coordinator of International Programme with Oxfam.

孟加拉:洪水的啟示

孟加拉是世界上其中一個最受天災影響的地區。2009年6月,熱帶風暴艾拉吹襲孟加拉,令340萬人受災。樂施會向沙姆納加及薩德基拉兩個地區5,000個家庭提供臨時避難所及公共衞生服務。

撰文:余振威

水是生命之源,對海岸線長達600公里的孟加拉來說,如何與水為伴,更是生存之道。就在世界水日[i]翌日(3月23日),孟加拉受龍捲風吹襲,東部20條村受災,造成至少20人死亡,200多人受傷。

人口達1億5千萬的孟加拉,是世界上其中一個最受天然災害影響的國家。受氣候變化影響,近年孟加拉的水災、旱災、風暴越見頻繁,強度愈見嚴重,大大拖累了國家的整體發展。住在孟加拉沿海地區的人對樂施會說,2010年的降雨量比2009年減少了47%。即使在雨季,雨水也很少,令耕種變得越來越困難。上天不下雨,固然是大問題,但洪水來襲,亦意味著乾淨的食水供應會受到影響。自1900年起,孟加拉十個受災人數最多的天災,七個是水災。最近一次嚴重水災發生於2004年,造成3千6百萬人受災,經濟損失達20億美元[ii]

加高房子的地台以阻擋洪水湧入民居,是有效的防災措施之一。

由於孟加拉大部分地區地勢低、人口密度高、貧窮情況嚴重,加上當地農業和漁業等主要經濟活動都和氣候息息相關,因此氣候變化對孟加拉的衝擊非常大。以下一系列結合生計、災害管理和應對氣候變化的發展項目,有助提升最受災害影響的居民應付災害的能力,包括:

  • 協助社群做好防災準備及提升自救能力,例如協助村民加高房子的地台,阻擋洪水湧入民居;建造及整修水災避難所;安裝及維修食水的管井;建立天氣預報系統、修築防水堤壩等。
  • 推動農民成立災害管理小組,透過技能培訓及防禦建設,促進他們應付災害的自救能力及社群互助精神。
  • 推行協助社群適應氣候變化的項目,例如引進「水上苗圃」,讓農民在水災期間仍能耕種;引進多樣化、高產值及能抵禦洪水的農作物、混合畜牧及耕種的生產模式,以及種植期較短的稻米,以確保農民在洪水來臨前能夠有所收成等。

協助孟加拉農民在水浸期間在水上苗圃繼續耕種,有效減輕氣候變化帶來的影響。

另外,在人道救援與發展工作的基礎上,帶動社區發展甚至推動國家立法的項目,以協助當地人應付災害和適應氣候變化,亦極為重要。孟加拉雖然持續受天災蹂躪,可幸的是,國內民間機構的發展頗為成熟,該國更是其中一個最先發展全國性應對氣候變化策略、制訂具體行動計劃的發展中國家。去年9月,孟加拉通過一個非常重要的法案,從災害管理的層面制訂新的問責框架,更是一大突破。在整個政策推動的過程中,聯合國及國內公民社會的支持,功不可沒,而國際非政府組織亦扮演著舉足輕重的角色。

樂施會自70年代起,已在孟加拉進行人道救援工作,多年來與當地政府及民間機構緊密合作,並定期舉行全國性的論壇及會議,與當地災害管理的決策部門亦建立了良好的溝通機制。


[i]聯合國自1993年起將每年的3月22日定為「世界水日」,希望喚醒大眾對全球水資源的關注。2013年世界水日的主題是「水合作」,藉此提高全球人類對水資源管理領域合作的認識。

[ii]資料來源:http://www.emdat.be

作者:余振威,樂施會項目經理 – 人道救援及災害管理

After the Storm, Before the Harvest

Text and photos by Madeleine Marie Slavick

(Editor’s note: A week after Typhoon Bopha made a landfall on the Philippine island of Mindanao, Madeleine Marie Slavick recalls her visit to Pangasinan after two typhoons hit the Philippines back to back in September and October 2009.)

I arrive in Manila. Instant traffic, dust, homeless people by the roadside, Jollibee, KFC, McDonalds, Chow King, and a leaflet through the car window to maybe buy a condo. Inside, my nine rights as a passenger are laminated and a rosary hangs from the rear view mirror. Love songs in Tagalog and English on the radio.

Then, out in the provinces, wind in corn, the green of rice seedlings. Sugarcane workers with skin as dark as night. Dry riverbeds. Thin cows. I wake to roosters sounding. Maybe half the world wakes this way.

 

SHOTGUN, TWO SHOTS

Farmers call it a shotgun. Long and narrow and metal, with a crescent-shaped tip. Put one seed at the top, release the catch, and the seed falls straight down into the soil. A farmer I meet works barefoot, his skin the colour of earth. In fifteen days, he will apply the first shot of fertiliser, and on day 45, the second. Corn takes four months to harvest, and he seems confident, hopeful. Click, click, click, the shotgun goes, down the neat row of farmland, beside a mango tree that was halved by two back-to-back typhoons in 2009. Ondoy, the Filipino name for Ketsana, hit in the last days of September; Pepeng, or Parma, hit in the first week of October.

It should have been the time for the rice harvest, but the whole crop for thousands of families was drowned and farm animals washed away. The storms killed hundreds of people. People measure the depth of water with the body: foot-high, knee-high, hip-high or neck-high. In some areas, it was almost three bodies high, at fourteen feet, and the water stayed for five days. Months later, tree trunks still have watermarks.

 

TAPOS

‘Tapos’ means ‘next’ as in, please tell me about each of your children, from youngest to oldest Since the average number of children is eight, ‘tapos’ is used a lot. I meet a farmer too poor to be able to care for her children, so she gave two away, to cousins, one right in the village, and one five villages away. Sometimes, her family has had only one meal a day, or just sugary water, maybe coffee.

At the time of Pepeng, this woman was seven months pregnant. ‘I felt very afraid, very afraid of the floods.’ Her baby was born, small but healthy, on 4 December, and food aid funded by the HKSAR Government Disaster Relief Fund arrived on 5 December. Her family received twelve kilos of rice, twelve cans of sardines, dried fish, mongo beans, iodized salt, and brown sugar. ‘We really needed it then. We didn’t have anything.’

 

DAM

The family lives about ten minutes from the Agno River, and their corn about ten seconds away. At 221 kilometres long, the Agno is one of the country’s longest rivers, and the San Roque one of Asia’s largest dams.

In the Philippines, every river is monitored for floods, but forecasting and early warning systems are in place only for the four major rivers, including the Agno. In a typhoon, usually one floodgate at San Roque is opened to release excess water, but with the heavy rainfall of Pepeng, at 927.8 millimetres, all six gates were opened, releasing about 5,000 cubic metres of water per second.

There was inadequate warning, and in less than ten hours, about 90 per cent of Pangasinan’s towns were submerged. Three other dams in nearby provinces also released water.

The ex-prisoner’s family had to plough their cornfield four times to deal with all the sand. A blessing hangs in their home, ‘God, bless our home, Bless this house, Oh Lord, We pray, Make it safe by night and day.’

 

LOCAL, NATIONAL

The Philippines is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world. Typhoons. Floods. Earthquakes. Volcanoes. Climate change. There are several national systems in place to monitor potential crises and to alert people, yet it is the local Barangay Disaster Coordinating Council (the ‘barangay’ is the level of government below a municipality or city) that is mandated to prepare residents, to respond when a disaster strikes, and to reduce future risks.

The reality is that in a developing country, resources are limited. Many barangay also lack expertise. With Pepeng, for instance, barangay coordinated evacuation efforts, but often at the height of the floods, not beforehand, as advised.

Yet, the Philippines has a strong civil society, with many people’s movements and experienced NGOs, such as the Philippines Disaster Response Network. Since 1991, starting with the 15 June eruption of Mt. Pinatubo, they have been active both locally and nationally, training barangay officials, and advocating for better disaster management standards nationwide through legislation.

 

PARTNERS, FRIENDS

In the first days after Pepeng, people helped each other survive. Families sheltered in neighbours’ homes. People contributed a ‘chupa’ of rice, about one small tin can, to community emergencies. A sturdy 30-passenger truck donated by a parishioner helped with evacuations. Two community leaders worked on a proposal to assist 1,000 families in Pangasinan.

Oxfam helped with corn seeds and fertiliser, loans with only five per cent interest to restart jobs, assistance to start a revolving fund and training on how to manage finances.

A project coordinator says, ‘Most people just want to have money as fast as possible. We need to make sure that they manage the project carefully so that when the project is over, it continues to work and people benefit.’ A community organiser with 14 years of experience at Philippines Disaster Response Network leads trainings in how to prepare for floods, disasters and climate change. He also trains two young aides, age 18 and 22, and when they work together, in the office or in the village, sometimes they sing. They like Liwanag Sa Dilim, a song which means Light in the Dark, for its courage, challenge and justice.

 

The farmers, NGO workers and pastors mentioned in this article are all associated with People’s Disaster Risk Reduction Network (PDRN), an organisation Oxfam Hong Kong began supporting in 2003. In February 2010, Madeleine Marie Slavick, then Communications Officer – Editor of Oxfam Hong Kong, documented Oxfam’s programmes in Pangasinan.

Reaching Rural Afghanistan Students with a GREAT IDEA

by Stephanie Cheung

Before the war in Afghanistan in 2001, who would have thought that mobile phones could be important tools for local education?

Today, in Parwan, Afghanistan, these new media are used to reach boy and girl students in rural areas under an innovative pilot project called GREAT IDEA.

When the Taliban lost power in 2001, the Ministry of Education began to put tremendous resources into improving access to quality primary and secondary education. The measures have made many improvements, yet Afghanistan’s average rural school enrolment rates remain low, and the gender disparity high: 27% of girls go to school, and 44% of boys.

Oxfam Hong Kong supports GREAT IDEA because strengthening the education system and improving its quality is crucial to the development of Afghanistan, which has faced decades of conflict, instability and insecurity. Three decades of war, civil unrest, poverty and repressive governments destroyed most of the country’s formal education system. The Taliban, for instance, forbade girls from going to school and women from being teachers.

The application of new media and technology into the field of education in the development context is surely on the rise, such as the Yoza cell phone project in South Africa, and I am excited that Oxfam is involved in this initiative in Afghanistan.

Another project component is the production and telecasting of video lessons by qualified teachers in rural areas. Students get a high quality education and at the same time, teachers get training. The following video illustrates how GREAT IDEA’s distance learning and consultation works.

Having female teachers is important in many ways. Given the repressive context of Afghanistan, women in a professional context can serve as role models for girl students and enable them to aspire to have a career, such as a teacher. (In recent interviews, most students want to be doctors.) This idea is working really well. At present there are three master teachers doing the recordings, two of whom are women and they do serve as role models for the girl students. Their lessons are broadcast on a daily basis in the 21 pilot schools.

GREAT IDEA does not aim to build more schools, but to raise the quality of secondary education in existing schools. It aims to reduce dropout rates through introducing interactive distance learning and the use of new media. One of our partners, the Dutch organisation Butterfly Works, has provided creative support and helped facilitate effective communication among all stakeholders.

Who wants to be a doctor?

To ensure that the educational content is suitable and useful, the teachers and students create the materials together, and the project website and other project information uses simple language to effectively explain what GREAT IDEA does. Fun learning makes effective learning. Since the project’s launch last year, measurable progress has been made: the teachers manage to get through the curriculum and students are having better grades.

I am happy that this project receives full support from the Ministry of Education. Should GREAT IDEA prove to be effective in the 21 schools where it is being piloted for two years, it can be expanded to reach more students around the country. That would make me even happier.

 

Oxfam Hong Kong has been supporting GREAT IDEA since March 2011. Stephanie Cheung is Special Projects Officer with Oxfam.