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Policy Briefs

pbs 2016-3POLICY BRIEF SERIES | PBS 2016-3
by Aisa O. Manlosa and Harold Glenn A. Valera

Flooding has increased in frequency in various parts of the country, causing damage to thousands of households every year. It directly affects communities through damage to livelihood and properties, loss of earning, and health hazards. Households dependent on agriculture for livelihood are particularly vulnerable because of the negative impact of flooding to productivity.

Damage assessments following flood events are regularly done to determine extent of loss and to identify critical areas for intervention. However, these are often macroscale assessments, which
do not necessarily generate information that could be useful for policymaking. At the municipal level, planning for disaster mitigation and adaptation strategies are devolved and should be operationalized. This study sought to determine microscale damage estimates of the largest flood event in the history of Jabonga, in Agusan del Norte, in southern Philippines. Jabonga is a lakeside municipality adjacent to Lake Mainit, the fourth largest lake in the Philippines.

Data and Method

The municipality of Jabonga is located in Caraga Region, which was classified as part of the poorest cluster in 2009. Thirty-nine percent (39%) of the region’s total employment in 2010 is in the agriculture sector (Bureau of Agricultural Statistics 2011). The agriculture dependency of the municipality is higher than the regional rate, with 60 percent of the population either partly or fully dependent on farming. Seven of the municipality’s 15 barangays are prone to flooding. Since 2005, between 914 to 2,909 households in Jabonga have been annually affected by floods. On the average, farms in hazard zones are inundated for 32 days, while residential areas are flooded for 30 days. During the flooding event in the first quarter of 2011, 71 percent of the houses in the flood hazard zone sank, and the livelihood of 61 percent of the household population was affected.

The plains which are important agricultural lands are located inside the flood hazard zone between a mountain range to the west and a lake to the east. Duration of inundation of agricultural lands nearest to the lake can last for as long as three months, resulting to significant income loss from crop damage. Moreover, some farms were limited to only one cropping season annually, due to long period of flooding. During the flood in 2011, average damage was estimated at PHP 4,558/household in areas that are not located in the hazard zone, and PHP 6,395 in areas located in the hazard zone.
Results of regression analysis suggested that the type of livelihood a household depends on is a significant variable influencing magnitude of flood damage. Model for flood vulnerability revealed that a household that depends on farming is likely to sustain damage PHP 5,311 higher than households that have non-agricultural income sources because products of agricultural livelihoods are directly dependent on climate patterns and environmental conditions.

Majority of the farmers in Jabonga were not able to implement adaptation strategies because of lack of technical information and awareness on available technologies and options. Infrastructure that would mitigate flooding is also lacking. Policies that facilitate the flow of information, technology transfer, and close collaboration between scientists and farmers are critical in reducing the damage and in averting aggravation of poverty of this vulnerable group. In addition, interventions that address the need for alternative livelihood of farmers who are not able to plant when the farms are inundated, are necessary to buffer income of agriculture-dependent households. Rural areas in some of the poorest regions in the country are in need of more investments to mitigate the destructive potential of floods, and to increase the adaptive capacity of vulnerable households. In view of the transformation of upland areas in Jabonga to mining, there is a need to critically assess the impact of resource extractive activities in the upland on the already hazardous state of the lowland areas.

Recommendations

National policies have focused on improving agricultural productivity of the farming sector. They have made advances in addressing needs of farmers to adapt to climate change impacts. However, there is a need to assist and capacitate agriculture-dependent households of the poorest areas of the country to find ways to adapt to climate change effects, particularly the increasing frequency of flooding. Agricultural research institutions and other government agencies should also consider the poverty rates of areas, the population’s level of agriculture dependence, and the severity of flooding incidence and other climate change impacts, when investing in interventions that could help the poor agricultural households enhance their capacity to adapt and to sustain or increase productivity in the face of constraints. Furthermore, strategies to sustain productivity should integrate capacity building at the municipal level for them to accurately assess microscale flood damage. The study further recommends the following:

  1. Enhance the impacts of the development projects and disaster risk reduction initiatives by the LGUs, national agencies, and non-government organizations through strategic implementation in the hazard zone barangays where greater impact of perennial flooding is felt;
  2. Prioritize flood mitigating infrastructure projects to lessen the frequency and duration of flood occurrence;
  3. Address high income loss due to flooding particularly in the agriculture sector through effective tactical strategies such as crop insurance, in order to reduce poverty incidence in the municipality;
  4. Enhance the adaptive capacity of farmers through projects like pilot-testing of flood-resistant rice varieties and crops toward reducing income loss and ensuring a certain level of food security; and
  5. Conduct proper zoning of ongoing and future business investments as an important step in reducing damage. While the political seat is located near Lake Mainit, future commercial centers may be zoned in an area significantly far from the frequently-flooded sites.

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