Spearheaded by Charita, Czech branch of Caritas, the scope of Czech humanitarian operations in Western Samar is being gradually enlarged from purely humanitarian aid to development assistance. Supporting the Diocesan Social Action Center of Calbayog, the Caritas Czech Republic started its operations in the municipality of Basey shortly after supertyphoon Yolanda hit Samar.
There they promptly extended efforts to rehabilitate the disaster-struck areas and to assist in the recovery of the local communities. The funding for these post-disaster rehabilitation programs in Samar came from the voluntary contributions by citizens of the Czech Republic and Romania, and by funding of the Czech Development Agency. A Czech Country Representative has overseen the projects since the beginning.
Czech Ambassador Jaroslav Olša, jr. recently traveled to Samar to visit the Czech-funded development and humanitarian projects that are currently being implemented in the province and to evaluate how Czech support over the past years has helped the island recover after the onslaught of Yolanda in 2013.
Ambassador Olša with Hon. Igmedio Junjie Ponferrada, Mayor of Basey, and Airen C. Cajarop, Director of Basey II
The joint Czech, Italian and Romanian Caritas´ humanitarian assistance to Western Samar is not limited to post-disaster rehabilitation work. With its local partner, the Diocesan Social Action Center, it has also been implementing agricultural projects supporting local farmers in barangays in municipality of Basey. Among these projects is the “Diversified and Integrated Organic Farm,” where farmers are taught to diversify their livelihood by using resilient farming systems, as well as to identify which seeds and crops are most adaptable to their local areas. The farmers are also trained in the organic way of pest control and fertilizer development. Aside from this, the Basey field-office of Caritas also provides assistance in formulating and implementation of Disaster Risk Reduction plans through village mapping and promotion of climate-resilient technologies.
After visiting Samar, Ambassador Olša noted that “more than eighteen months after Yolanda there is still so much to do in Samar. Farmers’ livelihood used to rely on few cash crops only - coconut, banana and rice. Yolanda forced locals to realize that this is not the way how to sustain their income.” It is thus not a surprise that Czech Caritas is continuing its work in the province by strengthening farmers’ knowledge in diversifying their income by various farming activities with resilient approach.
“Once farmers become more confident and the production reach appropriate volume and quality, our projects will move to the next stage; to cluster communities and help them to access the market,” says Helena Kotková, Czech Caritas Country representative, and adds: “But it is still a long way to go. In 2013, Caritas Czech committed to help the communities. We cannot leave without unfinished complex package of activities.”
Rest assured, the Czech Republic will continue to implement humanitarian and development projects in continuous support of “Building Samar Back Better. ”
(Main photo: Ambassador Jaroslav Olša, jr. and Charita Country Representative Helena Kotkova among the beneficiaries)