A desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is deteriorating in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing life-saving support but help is urgently needed to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe.
Typhoon Haiyan caused widespread damage to livelihoods. Among the worst affected, was coconut farming with millions of trees being uprooted, damaged or destroyed.
One coconut farmers association estimated the damage to be around 98%. Dubbed as the “tree of life”, it takes between five to seven years for a coconut tree to become productive so recovery will take a long time.Coconut seeds starting to germinate.
The land needs to be cleared, as damaged coconut trees are prone to pest infestations, but access is not always easy. Because of the need for shelter materials the team decided that providing sawmills would be a relevant response.
Working through existing local farming associations or cooperatives Oxfam is providing portable sawmills, chainsaws, protective clothing, a start up grant, insurance (for health and safety) and training in the management and operation of a lumber producing income generating project.
This is not a ‘cash for work’ program but an entrepreneurial approach where we are helping to facilitate the establishment of community based businesses.
So far, six saw table saws have been purchased and four organizations have been identified. Two farming coorperatives have each now received a saw mill and three chainsaws and are expected to start tree clearance and lumber production soon. The Shelter Cluster in Leyte is very interested in this initiative for replication in other areas as well as being a source for building material.
To sum up, Oxfam is running a simple and inexpensive (approximately $7-8,000 per association) project with multiple outcomes including clearing land, income generation for Yolanda survivors, and the production of shelter material.
Given recent heavy rains in many Haiyan-affected areas across the Philippines, there is an urgent need to use the fallen trees before they become rotten. We are aiming to expand this project as quickly as possible.
Oxfam is initially hoping to reach 500,000 people affected by Typhoon Haiyan. Our priority is to reach the most vulnerable families with safe water and sanitation facilities to help protect people from public health risks.
You can support Oxfam's Haiyan relief and recovery efforts in the Philippines.
All photos: Jane Beesley/Oxfam
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