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‘Green’ banca to help save trees

A “green” banca will help to restore the livelihood of typhoon-devastated fisherfolk and preserve the remaining hardwood stands of the Visayas “Yolanda” disaster zone.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the Philippines’ Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) have together developed a sturdy hybrid vessel for fishermen, which is partly made of fiberglass to cut down on the use of wood.

José Luis Fernandez, the FAO representative in the Philippines, said there was a need to restore livelihood in the coastal villages devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda while introducing sustainable practices to local fishermen in line with the government’s “build back better” program.

“The adoption and fabrication of this inexpensive hybrid fiberglass-wooden boat model is taking advantage of the opportunity to introduce more responsible practices,” he said.

The strongest storm to hit the Philippines killed more than 6,000 and affected an estimated 14 million people, including some 30,000 fishing families, or about 150,000 people, in coastal areas last November.

“It is imperative that we restore fishing production capacity in a sustainable manner. The disruption to the fisheries sector caused by Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) over six months ago not only threatens fishers’ livelihoods, per capita fish consumption and nutrition levels of coastal communities but the livelihoods of thousands of other fish workers and women in fisheries along the fish distribution chain,” Fernandez said in a statement.

Hybrid banca

The development of the hybrid fishing banca is part of a $7-million program aimed at supporting some 14,4000 fishermen across the typhoon corridor, including parts of Eastern and Western Visayas and Northern Palawan.

FAO said the boat would retain traditional Philippine boat designs but replace materials from the hardwood tree, a protected species, with fiberglass for the keel or kasko.

The 6.4-meter motorized banca will still use hardwood for the upper hull but use fiberglass for the lower hull.

“[It will be] helping to preserve the hardwood trees and deterring further illegal forestry practices. FAO has further included built-in buoyancy tanks and other features that ensure floatability and durability,” said FAO in a statement.

At P45,000 per unit, the hybrid banca is a little pricier than the P30,000 all-hardwood banca but is half the price of a full fiberglass boat.

Prototypes

FAO is providing technical assistance in making 45 prototypes of the hybrid vessel for distribution to typhoon-hit villages. It will provide training to nongovernment organizations, local government staff, BFAR personnel, boat builders and other stakeholders in the construction and maintenance of the hybrid boats.

“By training trainers, knowledge on construction and maintenance is expected to be passed on to 3,000 boat builders and carpenters,” said FAO.

The organization is hoping that the government, private and artisanal boat builders will “adopt the model” for mass production.

FAO and the UK-DFID will also provide some 3,000 fishermen with small-fish cage materials and provide 3,500 women with “start-up capital for fish vending, processing and value-adding.”

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