Pre-typhoon livelihoods in Eastern Mindanao were characterized by subsistence agriculture and small livestock and poultry raising, augmented with income from various labour opportunities, both salaried and unsalaried, and skilled and unskilled. The area enjoyed a mixed food economy, with most households growing some of their food and purchasing the rest with income earned from both farm and off-farm activities. Staple food supplies in the market were generally sufficient, and markets prices stable.
Typhoon Bopha (locally named Pablo) turned this picture upside down overnight, destroying houses and infrastructure, devastating agricultural and horticultural assets, seriously eroding the commercial agriculture industry for which the area is known, and thereby seriously reducing other income streams for some time to come.
One month after the typhoon, when this survey was conducted, the number of households listing agricultural production among their top three livelihood activities has fallen by one-third on average, and by as much as one-half in the worst-affected areas. The contribution of various forms of wage and salary income to households’ livelihood portfolios has also tumbled, declining in importance by more than half in the worst-affected areas. The majority of households have shown remarkable increases in their reliance on ‘other,’ formerly minor, livelihood activities. The extent to which households have turned to such minor activities confirms the degree of devastation in the traditional livelihood activities of this area as a result of the typhoon.
Typhoon-affected households are applying a variety of coping mechanisms to address the sudden loss of agricultural production, jobs and income. The most frequently applied coping responses are reliance upon less preferred, less expensive food, reducing expenditures on other living costs, accepting emergency food assistance and food from friends and relatives, borrowing money and spending down savings. In the worst-hit areas, one in five families reported having to reduce the number or portion of meals in order to get by.
These coping strategies, together, are still not sufficient. Food consumption scoring carried out in this survey identified significant numbers of food insecure households – i.e. more than one in three households overall. Many households presently rely on relief food assistance for as much as two thirds of their present consumption.