WACC project helps Filipino fisherfolk share local knowledge of climate-resilient, sustainable livelihood

Fifteen years ago, Sibuguey Bay in southwestern Mindanao, Philippines, was in an alarming state. Fish and other marine resources were nearly depleted due to illegal, unregulated fishing and mangrove deforestation  

But the situation began to turn around in 2005, when the Coalition of Municipal Fisherfolk Associations (COMFAS) began to rehabilitate and establish fish and marine sanctuaries covering 9,000 hectares of mangrove forests.  COMFAS members include hundreds of fisherfolk from coastal municipalities in the Moro province. 

Its massive efforts eventually transformed Sibuguey Bay into a coastal area where “healthy, verdant mangrove forests support a rich, diverse array of marine and terrestrial life,” according to PAKISAMA, a 33-year-old national movement and confederation of small farmer, fisher, Indigenous people, rural women and youth organizations. Mangrove rehabilitation helped regenerate biodiversity in the bayand fisherfolk have reported an increase in fish catch over the years. “To date, COMFAS has successfully rehabilitated the first 10,000 out of 40,000 hectares of denuded mangrove areas in the province,” said PAKISAMA project coordinator John Francis Lagman.  

PAKISAMA has partnered with COMFAS in a project that will share its experience and knowledge of rehabilitating Sibuguey Bay, in order to build the capacities of fisherfolks to use and share local and traditional knowledge in promoting climate-resilient fisheries resource management and enhance local climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies.” The project is supported by WACC Global, Bread for the World, and the Food and Agriculture Organization.  

“We are glad to be part of this project with WACC Global because it will greatly develop the capacity of our organization and teach us how to document very well our best practices, such as taking good care of the environment, mitigating the effects of climate change and how our family farmer members can become more resilient,” said a statement from COMFAS chair Roberto Ballon 

WACC General Secretary said “this exciting project demonstrates that local ecological knowledge is vital if we are collectively to overcome the impacts of climate change and to secure a sustainable future for people everywhere.” 

PAKISAMA officially launched the projecton Saturday, July 18. 

Initial stages of the project will include action planning with COMFAS, key informant interviews and community consultations, consultation with local authorities and partners, and storytelling and story writing 

By November, PAKISAMA and COMFAS participants will engage in participatory mapping, participatory video production and basic scriptwriting workshopLocal participants will be trained to produce and disseminate a video about the local and traditional knowledge and best practices in climate change adaptation and mitigation.  

A special area of interest will be developing a participatory geographic information system that combines participatory learning and action methods,” said Lagman. “The information produced will inform COMFAS members, leaders and staff,” and will be shared widely to help “raise awareness and promote lessons-learned at community level, with a particular view on strengthening the capacities of these family farming organizations,” he added.  

All in all, the project will support PAKISAMA and its family farmer organizations “to tell their stories, organize for change, and advance their own solutions to the climate crisis,” said Lagman.