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Did our eco-friendly boat idea hold water?

When major disasters strike, we often respond within hours – as we did when Hurricane Matthew battered Haiti last month. But while the TV crews go home after a few days or weeks, we stay and work with local people to rebuild lives. In the wake of a huge typhoon in the Philippines, we helped fishermen go green and start earning again.

Nolito Dela Cruz and his family lost their home and boat when Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines. They received a new boat from Concern so they could earn money again. Credit: Steve de Neef/Concern Worldwide

When Typhoon Haiyan brought chaos to the Philippines three years ago, Concern was quick to send help. In the weeks after the disaster, we gave out blankets and other essential supplies. But people needed to do more than survive – they needed to rebuild their lives.

On the island of Iloilo, where Concern focused its efforts, many people made their living through fishing. But the typhoon destroyed huge numbers of boats – even those pulled up on to land for safety. Without them, already poor families would struggle to put food on the table.

So as well as rebuilding schools, fixing water pipes and helping people get ready for future disasters, we worked to replace damaged and destroyed boats with a new eco-friendly design. We’ve taken a hard look at the scheme to see if it was a success. Read the full report, or grab the highlights below.

Greener design

The island’s traditional fishing boats are made of wood from locally-grown tipolo trees. But tipolo tree numbers plummeted after the typhoon, as fishers chopped them down to replace their broken boats.

To protect tree supplies, Concern came up with an alternative design using marine plywood. The new design was a similar shape to the old boats, but needed much less wood. Once it was approved by the fishers and the local authorities, Concern set up a boatyard, staffed by five teams of local people. Soon the yard was churning out boats for fishers who had lost their old craft in the typhoon.

Local people back project

Each new boat was expected to last six years – longer than traditional boats, which would survive for three to four years. A survey showed that the new design was well liked by users, with 34 per cent rating it ‘good’ and 64 per cent ‘very good’. They rated the quality of construction highly too (39 per cent ‘good’ and 56 per cent ‘very good’). In total, 950 boats were built and given out by Concern, along with fishing gear. Gildreth and Artem Abancio from Conception, Iloilo, Philippines. Given a new fishing boat by Concern Worldwide after Typhoon Haiyan. Credit: Steve De Neef/Concern Worldwide

A panel of local people made sure those claiming a boat had been fishing for a living before the disaster. No boats were given to people who did not own one before the disaster. The list of those helped was shared with other organisations working in the wake of the typhoon, to make sure support was spread around fairly.

To offset the wood used to build the new boats, the project included the reforestation of about 50 hectares of land on a local mountain. Local farmers and fishermen’s associations planted more than 15,000 seedlings.

More support for coral reefs and mangroves

This wasn’t the only support we gave fishers on Iloilo. We also helped rebuild mangroves and coral reefs – vital environments for the fish local people depend on – and helped communities prevent overfishing. Divers install coral fragments on a reef near Concepcion, in the Philippines. The Concern Worldwide scheme helped fishers by restoring the marine ecosystem. Credit: Steve de Neef/Concern Worldwide You can read more about this work, and the new fishing boats, in our in-depth report.