Philippines: More fish means more food for typhoon survivors

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As one million fish adjust to new surroundings in Laguna de Bay in the Philippines, hundreds of families are rejoicing at the future income these fish represent. The fish are part of a program, called "More Food, More Fish," that CRWRC is undertaking in the Los Banos area of the Philippines in response to typhoons that hit the area earlier this year.

Laguna de Bay is the third largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia, covering over 911 square kilometers. Because the lake is located on the doorstep of Metro Manila, the fifth largest urban center in the world, the lake is intensively used by commercial and small scale fishermen. All that changed, however, in late September when typhoon rains raised water levels by 3.4 metres, destroyed commercial fish pens, and washed away the cages and nets of small-scale fishermen.

As part of "More Food, More Fish," CRWRC will distribute fish nets to 450 families from the small town of Tadlac. This poor fishing community is still almost completely submerged from the typhoon flooding, forcing the residents to live in tents on a small ridge of land just inland from the town.

In addition to providing these families with nets, CRWRC also released 1 million tilapia fish fingerlings into Laguna de Bay earlier today. This will give the small fishermen a headstart on the fish market, since the large commercial fish farms won't restock until March.

"Jose K. Carino III, the Division Chief of Laguna Lake Development Authority expressed delight that CRWRC was willing to help with the restocking of fingerlings," said CRWRC international relief manager, Jack Dalmaijer. "He is not aware of any other organization that has expressed interest in this intervention, which is deemed highly necessary."

As part of the More Food, More Fish project, CRWRC is also helping 869 farmers in Pila, Victoria, Calamba, Bay, Pasanjan, Lumban, and Santa Maria communities restore their rice crop. This includes providing training on green farming methods, and distributing tools and inputs to help ensure a robust harvest.

"Elly and I designed and managed several responses of which the fish/rice project is only one," added Dalmaijer. "CRWRC has also organized and funded over 30 mobile medical clinics where the clinic staff has treated close to 4,000 patients. These mobile clinics are held in hard-to-reach communities. Getting to these places often involved using canoes to travel over the still-flooded rice paddies in order to reach the people whose access to health care has been cut off. Several days a week are also spent in schools where the nurses do hygiene training for the kids.

"Another very much appreciated project that is being implemented is the cleaning and sanitizing of 480 houses. These houses have been filled with water for two months or longer and are covered with algae, fungi and moulds. The cleaning crews sanitize them until they are fit for human habitation. They are also cleaning classrooms so that children can return to school. By providing health care, nets, clean houses, and assistance to rice farmers we are truly the hands and feet of Jesus," Dalmaijer concluded.