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Typhoon Haiyan: Chainsaw donation helps coconut farmers to branch out

News Stories, 31 March 2014

© UNHCR/J.Morden
A typhoon survivor in Mercedes town participates in a cash-for-assets program to salvage what's left of the coconut trees.

MERCEDES, the Philippines, March 31 (UNHCR) From above, they look like giant matchsticks dropped from the sky. Closer up, it emerges that the rolling hills surrounding Mercedes town are dotted with thousands of downed coconut trees.

In Mercedes and other areas hit by Typhoon Haiyan in the central Philippines' Visayas region, more than 33 million coconut trees were lost across over 295,000 hectares of land, along with the livelihoods of an estimated 1 million coconut farmers.

Marcelino Manalo, 47, is one of them. But with the current distribution of chainsaws by the UN refugee agency and its partners, his fate could change. "If no one helped us here, our life would be extremely difficult," says Marcelino, who lives in Palamrag, a village in Mercedes where coconut farming is the main source of income.

To support recovery efforts in Eastern Samar and Leyte provinces, 500 chainsaws valued at about US$370,000 were recently donated to UNHCR by the Husqvarna Group, a Swedish company producing outdoor power products.

The donation will go a long way in assisting affected communities and the Philippines government to salvage and clear coconut trees felled by the typhoon. Salvaged trees can be made into coconut lumber to replace and rebuild houses damaged in the November 8 tragedy. They come as more than 1 million homes were lost in the typhoon's aftermath.

As Marcelino and other coconut farmers in the affected areas wait at least six more years for new coconut trees to bear fruit, the use of chainsaws will also help provide alternative sources of income.

"When the ground has been cleared of debris from the coconut trees, we can start planting sweet potato and other crops in between the trees again. We can eat these or sell them for a profit," says Marcelino.

The father of two participates in a cash-for-assets programme run by People in Need, a humanitarian relief organization that has partnered with UNHCR in deploying chainsaws in Eastern Samar. Trained under the programme as a chainsaw operator, he has earned up to 265 pesos (US$6) a day by clearing and processing destroyed coconut trees to be turned into lumber and charcoal.

He spends his income on his family's upkeep. Marcelino looks after his two young grandchildren, who have been left in his care after his daughters, aged 26 and 24, left with their husbands for the capital city of Manila, hundreds of miles away, to seek employment after the typhoon.

Enormous needs for livelihood and shelter have emerged months after the typhoon struck. To help the most vulnerable survivors rebuild their lives, UNHCR has distributed relief items to more than 680,000 people and continues to work with the Philippines government and its humanitarian partners in search of durable solutions.

UNHCR, which co-leads the typhoon inter-agency protection cluster with the government, has partnered with humanitarian organizations supporting early recovery, livelihood and shelter efforts to distribute the chainsaws in Eastern Samar and Leyte. These include the International Organization for Migration, Catholic Relief Services, Christian Aid, OXFAM, People in Need and ZOA.

Each of the chainsaws donated by the Husqvarna Group has been registered with state agency, the National Coconut Authority, in line with local regulations. When this round of typhoon recovery programmes has concluded, the chainsaws will be turned over to the authorities for their long-term use and as possible pre-positioned assets for the next emergency response.

By Johanna Morden in Mercedes, the Philippines

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Typhoon Haiyan Devastates the Philippines

An estimated 13 million people were affected when Typhoon Haiyan struck the central Philippines on November 8. Thousands were killed and about 3 million are believed to be displaced - some of them living in evacuation sites, others on the ruins of their former homes. Tacloban City in Leyte province was one of the hardest-hit areas. A week after the typhoon made landfall, large parts of its coast remain flattened and piles of debris still line the streets. Working with the Philippines government and UN and NGO partners, UNHCR is airlifting emergency supplies for thousands of survivors. The agency is delivering tents, plastic sheets, mosquito nets and other critical aid. It is also co-leading the protection cluster with the government, working to identify vulnerable people and ensuring that they have access to basic assistance and services. UNHCR has appealed for US$15 million to meet these critical needs. UNHCR is now present in Tacloban and Ormoc in Leyte province, as well as Guiuan in Eastern Samar province.

Typhoon Haiyan Devastates the Philippines

Typhoon Haiyan: On the Road to Recovery Six Months After the Storm

Six months after Typhoon Haiyan carved its deadly and destructive path through the central Philippines and forcibly displaced 4 million Filipinos, the area is like a big construction site as people get on with rebuilding their flattened homes as well as their lives. Many have moved into renovated homes while thousands of those who fled to cities like Cebu and Manila have returned home. But large numbers still live in tents or former evacuation centres; full recovery is still some way off and many people need help. UNHCR is working with the government and other partners to address the challenges and find solutions for the displaced. The refugee agency has provided assistance to more than 600,000 people, distributing shelter materials and household items, including solar-powered lanterns in areas where there is still no electricity. UNHCR is also supporting a government-led mobile civil registration project to give 100,000 people continued access to social welfare, education and employment. Photographer Jeoffrey Maitem marked the six-month milestone by visiting communities recovering from Typhoon Haiyan.

Typhoon Haiyan: On the Road to Recovery Six Months After the Storm

Philippines: A home for NowPlay video

Philippines: A home for Now

Losing your family and home is losing everything you are and have. Tyhone Haiyan tore many families apart and took almost every persons home in Tacloban City ... in one day. UNHCR has provided more than 1,500 family tents to families in this area in addition to solar lanterns, plastic sheets, blankets and other relief items to help the people of Tacloban City regain a sense of life.
Philippines: A home for NowPlay video

Philippines: A home for Now

Losing your family and home is losing everything you are and have. Tyhone Haiyan tore many families apart and took almost every persons home in Tacloban City ... in one day. UNHCR has provided more than 1,500 family tents to families in this area in addition to solar lanterns, plastic sheets, blankets and other relief items to help the people of Tacloban City regain a sense of life.
Philippines: Leaving the Darkness Play video

Philippines: Leaving the Darkness

When typhoon Haiyan swept Tacloban City, it took with it what people need the most to see their way through any hard time: light. UNHCR has provided people of the Philippines with relief items that are helping make a difference. Relief items such as solar lanterns, plastic sheets, blankets and more than 1,500 family tents to families in this area.