Saving Livelihoods in a Changing Climate

Surigao del Norte, Philippines

The impacts of climate change are already affecting the shores and farms where Alfredo M. Coro II serves as mayor. He has witnessed farmers and fisherpeople in his municipality of Del Carmen have their livelihoods swept away by storms and rising sea levels.

Of course the chain of challenges extends beyond just the lives and livelihoods of those who provide the food. Food security for the population at large is the key issue created by the climate crisis, Coro says, though actual impacts are vast and vary from location to location.

In order to research and educate in such a shifting environment, the municipality created the Siargao Climate Field School for Farmers and Fisherfolks. The hope is that this model school will be the first of many, helping to address a problem that is both present now and changing the future.

As Mayor Coro explains, it is a paradox that must be dealt with.

“In the case of climate change adaptation solutions, we actually prepare for something to happen, yet are hoping that the impact we are trying to address does not actually happen.”

Lend your knowledge and expertise in empowering farmers and fisherfolk to thrive amid the impacts of the climate crisis.


What was the problem you saw?

We saw the climate change impact would be affecting our most vulnerable population – the farmers and the fisherfolks, who are also the frontliners of food security. In the Philippines, the average age of farmers is 55 years old, while the fisherpeople are 60, and interest from the young population is waning. We need to act NOW and define a new narrative for the next generations to accept farming and fishing as desirable and profitable endeavors that will thrive with an ever-changing climate. The People’s Survival Fund program of the national government gave us an opportunity to try our proposal with experts and earn the funding support to test our theory.

What was your idea/insight to solve it and the end result/vision you wanted to achieve?

The Siargao Climate Field School for Farmers and Fisherfolks, under the Surigao del Norte State University, will be a localized research facility to look for the right technology, process, and innovation for our farmers and fisherfolks to address their risks of yield and catch with a changing climate. Our vision is to address the issues of food security for an island economy like what we have with all considerations of intensified storms, long droughts, geographically isolated and all other factors magnified by climate change. Our mission is to ensure the ability of farming and fishing professions to secure profitable yield and catch to hopefully sustain the interest of the youth to be involved in agriculture and fisheries.

Why is this solution important to your country and community?

Food security is the primary issue and concern that climate change will exacerbate here. Each municipality and village will have their own issues with the changing climate, so there is a necessity to also have localized solutions. The climate issues of island ecosystems are very different from upland environments, thus the need to define new and varying food security solutions for each community. In developing localized solutions, we hope the collective impact of our action will result in strengthening our food security supply chain to serve all of our country.

What were the biggest challenges you faced/ran into?

In the case of climate change adaptation solutions, we actually prepare for something to happen, yet are hoping that the impact we are trying to address does not actually happen. The concern with designing a solution to a problem that may happen 30 years later, is that it is at risk of being not useful in the end. We designed our solution however to be most useful despite the hope of not having the impact of the climate we DO NOT want to happen. The incremental approach toward designing food security solutions for each locality will serve its purpose in a timely and directed position that will still benefit directly the community.

How did you mobilize people to take actions?

We adhere to the bridging leadership framework of ownership, co-ownership, and co-creation in defining the problem and the solutions. We review facts to confirm the issue and acceptance as a priority concern for our municipality. In getting co-ownership, we brought multi-stakeholders for several discussions using various platforms and our coming together (“Tambayayong” in our dialect) allowed us to efficiently discuss how we can link science, innovation, policy management, and behavior to manage, govern and protect our environment, our community and our people. Co-creating solutions includes defining policy, funding and capacity to be able to establish, manage, and monitor effectiveness of the proposed actions.

Who were key stakeholders/partners that worked with you?

The main actors in the development of the solution are really the multi-stakeholders of our community that is now expanded to include business owners, overseas Filipinos, non-government organizations, etc. that are not located in our municipality, but that interact with our locality through social media, internet, and many more platforms. We have the academy, large corporations, research organizations, expanded involvement of national government agencies, the community themselves, local businesses, tourists and visitors, civil society, advocacy groups, professionals, security teams, teachers, youth, etc. We work with as many stakeholders to make them participate in the discourse of alternative solutions, understand and appreciate the value of actions agreed upon, and monitor the effectiveness of the resource investment.

What insight, ideas, or suggestions would you offer someone looking to take action in a similar way?

The process of developing a climate change adaptation strategy starts always with getting the right data and understanding the science behind that data. With the available information, the local leaders would need to communicate the science to the various stakeholders in a language that the stakeholder would understand the impact to their family, be inspired to take necessary action to help address the issues, and be motivated to reach out to more members of the community. The co-creation process will result in a community-driven solution with all co-owners identifying themselves with the vulnerabilities of the community. Defined solutions are then tested and legislated into policy to ensure financial, human, and strategic resources are assigned to implementing the defined solution. 

How did this project you created promote equity or justice in your community?

The priority of the Siargao Climate Field School for Farmers and Fisherfolks was to ensure equitable access for the most vulnerable sectors of our society – farmers and fisherfolks. Our definition of social justice was to ensure that our valued frontliners of food security will have access to the technology, proces,s and innovation needed for them to continue their noble profession and continue to invite people to participate in the profession. Equity and social justice can then be expanded to the population that will have access to decent and affordable food for themselves and their families despite all the challenges brought by climate changes.