Today is September 24, 2020
Today is September 24, 2020

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Conservation in the time of COVID-19: Conversations with FPE Visayas CSO partners on challenges and opportunities faced amidst the pandemic

Posted on August 20, 2020

VRAC members and some FPE staff and BoT Chair during the first "Kamustahay" last July 24

The Visayas Regional Operations (VRO) conducted an online conversation or kumustahay with its Visayas Regional Advisory Committee (VRAC) members last July 24, 2020 to determine the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic to biodiversity conservation and sustainable development (BCSD), especially in relation to the work of civil society organizations (CSOs).  As BCSD front-liners, the VRAC members from regions 6, 7 and 8 shared challenges and response strategies on the ground.

On one hand, RAC members noticed how reduced human activities allowed the environment to recuperate as evidenced by new wildlife sightings, cleaner beachfronts, and better air quality.  This allowed stakeholders, especially Local Government Unit (LGU) officials, to appreciate more the importance of letting the environment to ‘breath’, which is an important step in strengthening public support towards BCSD in the regions.  On the other hand, RAC members reported about the negative effects of the pandemic on livelihoods, especially in ecotourism sites like Boracay and Bohol. CSOs also faced disruptions in implementation of BCSD projects due to restrictions in the movement of project staff and in their interactions with beneficiaries and partners, preventing capacity building and community organizing activities, among others.  The pandemic also exacerbated problems on food security, and highlighted the link between and among population, health and environment (PHE).  In Northern Samar, organic farming became a popular undertaking, given limitations in commodity exchanges due to the lockdown.   As the community began to grow their own food, they realize the importance of nature above anything else.

Good things happened to the environment and communities in Boracay during the pandemic. People intensified organic farming, which has helped them cope with the crisis. We have observed a reappearance of wildlife like whales and turtles.

 

Ma. Ninfa Desiree Segovia, VRAC Member for Region 6 and Chairperson, Boracay Women Producers Cooperative

Adapting to the New Normal

VRAC members and some FPE staff and BoT members during the second conversation for "Kamustahay" last August 10.

A second conversation with the VRAC was held last August 10, 2020 to discuss ways on how  CSOs and communities can immediately respond to emerging BCSD issues brought about by the pandemic, particularly in relation to food security and population, health and environment (PHE). FPE Board of Trustees (BOT) member Ramon Peñalosa gave a talk on the potentials of agri-preneurship in addressing hunger and poverty, especially in rural communities, while RAC Coordinator Ellen Gallares shared the PHE framework to inspire the VRAC members in coming up with creative solutions using PHE as a tool to address the identified challenges.  In the end, the participants were able to craft shared priority actions in adapting to the new normal, including capacity building on sustainable agriculture and policy advocacy for the integration of PHE in the COVID-19 recovery plan, among others.

We need to grow our own food because we cannot rely on other countries (food imports) to feed us.  If the Mekong River dries up, for example, (rice) exporting countries like Thailand and Vietnam will surely prioritize their own food security over the Philippines.  We need to change mindsets and make agriculture more profitable for farmers.

 

Mr. Ramon Peñalosa, FPE BOT Member and Owner of Peñalosa Farms, Victorias City, Negros Occidental

The output of the conversation will serve as a guide for FPE and its CSO partners in initiating and/or supporting projects for fiscal year 2020-2021.

By:  Ramie V. Debuayan (VRO Manager) and Mel Yan (VRO consultant)

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Cited references:  Proceedings of the 1st Online VRAC Conversation

Highlights of the Meeting by Mel Fatric Rhai Yan, VRO Consultant

Concept Paper on Session 1 Online Conversation

 

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