Did our eco-friendly boat idea hold water?

December 30, 2016
Written by Craig Burnett
Photo by Steve De Neef

Fishing is a way of life across the Philippines, so when Typhoon Haiyan hit the nation of many islands in 2013, we aimed to restore the livelihoods of fisherman in the form of new, more sustainable fishing vessels. Here’s what happened.

When major disasters strike, we act fast. Sometimes within a few hours — as we did when Hurricane Matthew battered Haiti at the beginning of October. And while the TV crews pursue new headlines after a few days or weeks, we stay and work with local people to rebuild lives. In the wake of a huge typhoon in the Philippines in 2013, we helped fishermen go green and start earning again.

Nolito standing next to his new boat in the Philippines

Nolito Dela Cruz and his family lost their home and boat during Typhoon Haiyan. Slowly they managed to rebuild, they also received a new boat from Concern Worldwide so they can continue their livelihood, fishing. Photo: Steve De Neef/November 2013/Philippines

When Typhoon Haiyan brought chaos to the Philippines three years ago, Concern was quick to send help. In the weeks after the disaster, we gave out blankets and other essential supplies. But people needed to do more than survive — they needed to rebuild their lives.

On the island of Iloilo, where Concern focused its efforts, many people made their living through fishing. But the typhoon destroyed huge numbers of boats — even those pulled up on to land for safety. Without them, already poor families would struggle to put food on the table. So, beyond rebuilding schools, fixing water pipes, and helping people get ready for future disasters, we worked to replace damaged and destroyed boats with a new eco-friendly design.

Each new boat was expected to last six years — longer than traditional boats, which would survive for three to four years.

We’ve taken a hard look at the scheme to see if it was a success. Read the full report, or grab the highlights below.

Greener design

The island’s traditional fishing boats are made of wood from locally-grown tipolo trees. But tipolo tree numbers plummeted after the typhoon, as fishers chopped them down to replace their broken boats.

To protect tree supplies, Concern came up with an alternative design using marine plywood. The new design was a similar shape to the old boats, but needed much less wood. Once it was approved by the fishers and the local authorities, Concern set up a boatyard, staffed by five teams of local people. Soon the yard was churning out boats for fishers who had lost their old craft in the typhoon.

A project backed by locals

Gildreth and Artem Abancio with their new boat in the Philippines

Gildreth and Artem Abancio from Conception, Iloilo, Philippines. Given a new fishing boat by Concern after Typhoon Haiyan. Photo: Steve De Neef

Each new boat was expected to last six years — longer than traditional boats, which would survive for three to four years. A survey showed that the new design was well liked by users, with 34% rating it ‘good’ and 64% ‘very good’. They rated the quality of construction highly too (39% ‘good’ and 56% ‘very good’). In total, 950 boats were built and given out by Concern, along with fishing gear.

A panel of local people made sure those claiming a boat had been fishing for a living before the disaster. No boats were given to people who did not own one before the disaster. The list of those helped was shared with other organizations working in the wake of the typhoon, to make sure support was spread around fairly.

To offset the wood used to build the new boats, the project included the reforestation of more than 120 acres of land on a local mountain. Local farmers and fishermen associations planted more than 15,000 seedlings.

Crucial coral reefs and mangroves

Divers installing reefs in the Philippines

Two volunteer divers trained by Concern participate in the installation of coral fragments on jackstones near Concepcion. The reefs here were heavliy damaged by Typhoon Haiyan and local fishermen depend on healthy reef systems for their survival. Photo: Steve De Neef

This wasn’t the only support we gave fishers on Iloilo. We also helped rebuild mangroves and coral reefs — vital environments for the fish local people depend on — and helped communities prevent overfishing. You can read more about this work, and the new fishing boats, in our in-depth report.

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