Fishing the seas for peace and progress
Surrounded by the smiling faces of Barangay Poblacion, a coastal community in the municipality of Kauswagan, it may be difficult for an outsider to believe the long history of conflict that once affected the province of Lanao del Norte.
“In the 2000’s, Kauswagan was one of the areas that was greatly affected by the declaration of the all-out war against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front,” said WFP National Programme Officer Baicon Macaraya.
Like many who call Barangay Poblacion home, Roy Cordero has lived here for most of his life and still vividly recalls the struggle that his community had to endure during the conflict.
“We were all afraid. We would hide inside our houses for many days,” said Roy. Without the finances to leave, Roy and his wife stayed in Kauswagan. “My wife was terrified. It was difficult for me to see her like that, but we didn’t have the resources to leave. Our source of income was here.”
A new start
As the conflict began to cease, families slowly made their way back to Kauswagan. However, many livelihoods had been affected by the conflict, making it difficult for people to generate the income they needed to rebuild their lives.
To assist communities during this period, the World Food Programme implemented the Food assistance-for-Assets (FFA) project in 2013. This was due to the generous support of the European Union and in partnership with the Philippine Government, through the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and local government units. The project enabled communities to re-build their lives and livelihoods by establishing community assets, while participants received food and cash assistance for their work.
Roy found out about WFP’s intervention and joined a fisherfolk association called Deputize Fish Wardens, with 20 other members from Barangay Poblacion, Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte. “WFP and the local government approached us and informed us of the Fish Cage project. They provided us with the materials and conducted the necessary training to build two fish cages and harvest the fish,” explained Roy.
“From WFP, we also received rice for the construction of the first cage then cash for the construction of the second cage. This allowed us not only to provide food for our families, but also purchase other necessities such as clothing and medicine.”
Working as one
Four years since the completion of the FFA project, the fisherfolk association has continued to build on their early successes, establishing additional 10 fish cages through the income generated from the harvests of the first two cages they developed, and through the support of the local government of Kauswagan.
Milk fish, rabbitfish, and mullet fish are harvested from the 12 fish cages, giving the association a diversified catch that has been a stable source of income for the group. “We’re very proud of our accomplishment,” said Roy.
“During the harvest, we are visited by people living in the neighboring areas. They come here just to purchase our fish, and we have frequent bulk buyers from Iligan City.” The association also supports the local markets by providing consumers with the opportunity to purchase a variety of fish at an affordable price due to the reduced transportation costs.
The local government has also recognized the important role the association has in the municipality’s aquaculture, deputizing the members as wardens to ensure that the seas of Kauswagan are healthy and protected from illegal fishing activities.
“We are working together with the government to stop illegal fishing,” he explained. “Before, there were illegal practices in the area such as cyanide and dynamite fishing. However, since we deputized fish wardens in the area, we were able to manage and eradicate these illegal fishing practices by implementing strict rules and penalties for violators. Nowadays, we’ve observed that our waters in Kauswagan are healthy with many fish,” continued Roy.
Through all their successes, the Deputize Fish Wardens continue to work as they did during the FFA Project — as a team. The group has placed their fish cage project at the forefront of the association and looks to continue this growth for their community. “We never had any conflicts because of the project,” said Roy. “We always talk and work with one another. We all recognize that we should nurture the project, because this isn’t just for the benefit of two or three people, but for all members of the association and our families as well.”
Learn more about WFP’s work in the Philippines.