Social Risk Management Strategies of Communities in the Agusan Marsh Landscape

AUTHOR/S: Lourdes R. Simpol, Jessie B. Manuta, Perpy C. Tio




              The research on “Social Risk Management Strategies of Communities in the Agusan Marsh Landscape” focused on the proactive approaches and strategies to address and minimize the vulnerability of poor resource-deprived households facing risks from natural disasters brought about by the changing climate regime.

              The study examined on the social risk management arrangements in Agusan Marsh communities, specifically in the two (2) puroks of Barangay San Marcos. San Marcos is one of the five barangays of the municipality of Bunawan, which is classified to be within the Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary along with barangays Consuelo, Mambalili, Nueva Era and Bunawan Poblacion.

               Barangay San Marcos of Bunawan, Agusan del Sur has second type of climate in the traditional classification, which is characterized with no pronounced wet season with heavy precipitation from the month of December to early part of March. Portions of San Marcos (along with 2 other barangays are categorized to be severely flooded to very severely flooded. The phenomenon they experienced during the flood of 2012 could be attributed to other factors aside from high volume of rainfall. One factor that might be considered is the level of siltation in Simulao River and Agusan Rivers.

               The two communities in Barangay San Marcos exhibit vulnerable situations to annual climate variability in the area. These are brought about by their dependency of water resources both for their livelihood and household needs. Change in the water levels directly affect their fishing method, which is the main source of livelihood for the residents. At some extreme conditions, this also poses danger to their lives. Both areas are susceptible to the climate changes, especially with the annual flooding because both are nearest to the Agusan Marsh.

               The two communities’ responses to the evident risks that they face regularly have a little variation. Both have utilized management instruments are inherent to them, like their indigenous knowledge systems and practices which they use for their daily survival and those that are  made available to them through different institutional and governance systems. Informal coping strategies include: (1) Dwelling structure modification/architectural adjustment, (2) Temporary migration, (3) Adjusted farming tempo, (4) Borrowing and selling of assets, (5) Tribal council assistance, and (6) Indigenous knowledge systems & practices. The government provides assistance through the Barangay LGU relief assistance.

               The mitigation strategies include: (1) Investment in human capital, (2) Market-based: Loans/ advances from traders, (3) Health insurance, (4) Market-based loans, and (5) the government Disaster risk management (DRM).

             The social risk management instruments available in Barangay San Marcos, representing the communities along the Agusan Marsh are generally coping strategies and inherently survivalist in nature. These are the adaptive measures that come with their living or being located in an environment that is very susceptible to climate variations. This reality has never been more apparent than in Purok Dinagat. Their way of coping is not resisting what happens naturally. Their main strategy is conformity to a natural force that cannot be prevented and that comes regularly.

                The household and community levels manage their risks through self-help, innovative strategies to cope with flooding by alterations, modifications of their houses and providing bamboo floaters to the houses and for their domestic animals. They have incorporated adjustability to their farming schedules, usually by waiting for the flood to fully subside before they start land preparation. They also rely on their IKSP to “predict” flood levels. The use of indigenous materials (e.g., bamboos, logs) is an indication that they utilize what is easily available in their immediate surroundings. Their close kinship and common ethnicity has forged a string sense of reliance on their neighbors and relatives for needed cash during emergency situations.

               The study recommends the following to further minimize the risk of marginalized communities to climate risks: (1) Expanding the coverage of the 4Ps Program (time and coverage), (2) Coordination of Philhealth at the barangay level, (3) Government micro-enterprises at the grassroots level, and (4) Comprehensive implementation of the barangay disaster risk management.

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