Integrated risk management on an island exposed to water deficits
Updated: Dec 29, 2019
A coral island with many challenges
Guintacan, also known as Kinatarkan, is a small island of 13.34 km² located 25 km northwest
of the island of Cebu in the central Philippines. Its elliptical shape is 5 km long and 2 km wide, oriented North-South. It is composed of three barangays (municipalities). It takes part of the municipality of Santa Fe, which is in the form of an archipelago municipality. For the island's 8905 inhabitants (2017 census), join the mainland of Cebu is only done by motorized fishing boats that make a round trip each during the day. In addition, in rough weather, it is simply impossible to cross. This is why this population, which has been stable for several years, is definitely landlocked. The island is a coral reef with a gently rolling topography, whose hills rise up to 50 m above sea level with an average altitude of 30 m. Due to its geological nature, the island has poor hydrography and the main water resources are rainfall and an underground spring located on the Hagdan barangay in the north of the island, which is slightly salty and not drinkable. In addition, due to over-abstraction and the presence of drilled wells, the salt content of the spring is increasing. Farmers cultivate 335.5 ha of land or about 25% of the total surface of the island.
Economic activities highly dependent on climatic conditions
The climate is humid tropical, so the dry season runs from March to May, and June to February is the wet season. It is during the former that the inhabitants of the island, especially the farmers, suffer the most from the climatic conditions to which the draining effect of the limestone rock is superimposed. The main economic activities of the island are precisely agriculture, with a gendered distribution between male fishermen and female farmers. Some men also work as drivers of motorcycles, the only vehicles on the island. Agriculture is mainly rain-fed, with mixed or combined crops such as cassava, mung beans, tomatoes and maize in the wet season. The population does not have sufficient food despite all these crops oriented for self-consumption, especially as regards water, which is imported as a supplement from the main island of Cebu.
There is a search for added value for certain products such as cassava powder, which is produced by the producers themselves and used to make steam-cooked starch. A quarter of the population has access to drinking water from the tap. Thus, common rainwater reserves exist among the inhabitants. The connection to the network costs 7000 pesos (117 €) to be paid by the households and paid to the public authorities. 20 m3 of water cost 160 pesos (2.5€). Water imported in cans from Cebu costs 2,630 pesos per m3, almost 300 times more expensive... But without investment. Farmers have been farming this land for more than a hundred years, but they do not own it. They are rich inhabitants of the island of Cebu who can in theory evict them at any time. However, the local government of Santa Fe has partially regularized their activity by issuing declarations of usufruct. In addition, it will oppose expropriations. Farmers pay a tax directly to the State and not to the owners. The island is subject to the multiannual climatic variations of El Nino, which seem to worsen from cycle to cycle. This year there have even been deaths due to the unprecedented heat wave.
The Hayan Trigger and the Beginning of Cooperation between Actors
It was after Typhoon Hayan in 2013 that Guintacan gradually emerged from the latent indifference to development. For reference, the inhabitants did not have permanent electricity before the disaster, and a significant part of the inhabitants' income was based on government aid based on social criteria. The island is part of the infamous Visayas region, the most severely affected part of the Philippines by the disaster. At the request of the Cebu authorities, humanitarian aid is being mobilised all over the place to help the island with approaches focusing on food, water, schooling and housing. This is when the Catholic Organization for Relief and Development Aid, Cordaid, in collaboration with the Cebu Province Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) and the Archdiocese of Cebu Recovery and Rehabilitation Unit (ACRRU), begins its work on the island of Guintacan. This organization specializes in integrated risk management, of which resilience is a major pillar. IRM is the combination of disaster risk reduction (DRR), climate change adaptation (CCA) and environmental management and restoration (ERM) interventions, integrating them to help reduce risks. International aid as well as local assistance has highlighted the island's development problems and its fragility in the face of climate change, which was already being observed by the local population. The major problem of access to drinking water thus affects the entire population in different proportions depending on the occupation, level of wealth and access to infrastructure of the inhabitants. The local government (LGU) of Santa Fe has set up a water management plan for 2015, in order to make this management public in the municipality of Hagdan, which owns the underground reserve.
In 2017, Cordaid launched a two-year project on the island - the Kinatarkan Resiliency in Action or IRM (Integrated Risk Management) Kinatarcan Island Project. This project was implemented in partnership with the Provincial Government of Cebu through the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO), the Local Government Unit (LGU) of Sta Fe, the 3 LGUs of Barangay Langub, Kinatarkan/Bitoon and Hagdan, and the Archdiocese of Cebu - Rehabilitation and Recovery Unit (ACRRU) with funding from Caritas Singapore and Cordaid in the Netherlands (Cordaid MIN/Private Funds). The project aims to assist 300 families on Kinatarkan Island to engage in sustainable and resilient livelihoods, including diversified agriculture using sloping farmland technology.
Six to ten volunteers from the population take part in discussions about its implementation. This makes the most affected people all the more involved and makes it possible to make the most vulnerable inhabitants audible. Thus associations of farmers, fishermen and market gardeners meet regularly to exchange on their practices and discuss the solutions put in place regarding water management. Cordaid invested €103,507 in 2017 to set up the project, and has been providing around €10,000 per year since then to monitor the project. The LGU provides human resources, free equipment, technical expertise, access to infrastructure, monitoring and legal support. The current project manager is Chris Estallo from Cordaid, who has a renewable action plan until 2020. However, decision-making and financial responsibility is ensured through intelligent collaboration between Cordaid, the LGU and other stakeholders. As the collaboration has no effective end, we can say that it is secure for the time being. In addition, the local government department dedicated to tourism is planning to develop eco-tourism, as opposed to beach tourism. It is planning English courses for the population, which is in perfect harmony with their wish to promote their adaptation internationally and to preserve their island.
An adaptation based on resilient methods on several issues
The project therefore focuses on critical aspects related to water management. One of the objectives is to limit the pumping of groundwater by democratizing techniques for recovering rainwater for recharge, for example, as it becomes saline. Salt water is rather used for washing up and cleaning. Finally, common rainwater tanks are now managed by the inhabitants themselves in order to limit the waste of each one. For agriculture, combined or mixed cropping techniques have made it possible to multiply harvests. Cassava has been promoted as a crop adapted to dry environments. It allows two harvests per year (including the dry season), and can withstand up to three to five months without rain, although not without a reduction in yield. Other techniques have been developed, such as water-saving terrace irrigation for cassava, but this is too recent to be able to take a step back from its impact. The general introduction of legumes has reduced the soil fertility risk to the consumer crop of cassava. On other aspects of climate change, Cordaid has carried out a lot of research using its Integrated Risk Managment method. Using national data, it has been possible to transfer knowledge about future climate phenomena.
The entire population of Kinatarkan Island is therefore affected by the project, whether for domestic supply or for various agricultural practices. Farmers understand the importance of certain agro-ecological practices and are learning the underlying scientific principles through exchanges with Cordaid in particular. The project increases food security and reduces poverty because people are less dependent on imported food and water. The investments are entirely supported by the local government and Cordaid.
The meeting with different actors involved in the project was very rich for us. We were able to attend a meeting between farmers' representatives and Cordaid, visit fields in the dry season to see the difficulties encountered and finally discuss with Cordaid their actions and the expected evolution of the project. From our point of view, Cordaid appears to be a valuable partner for the farmers because of its scientific rigour and project management techniques, but also for the local government because of its experience and the funds it provides. The local people seem to be really willing and aware of what's at stake. Their practices seem sufficient in the face of the accentuated hydric stresses of certain years, but could prove insufficient in the event of a major drought... This project appears to be replicable on all coral islands. Moreover, rainwater harvesting practices can be generalised to all areas under water stress.