We were finishing dinner with my family on Christmas Eve in our little Guiuan town on the Pacific coast when we learned that the forecasted tropical storm, which would be making landfall anytime soon, had evolved into a powerful typhoon. I knew that the house we were renting had resisted many typhoons in the past. Still, I was worried about my two little children inside and water mass pouring through the windows inside. It was late at night when the storm finally ended.
The full scale of destruction became apparent in the morning. When I saw that even the largest electric poles have collapsed, I got anxious about hundreds of cocoa farms established under the Eastern Samar Cocoa Livelihood Programme led by SPS Biota in partnership with Czech-based NGO People in Need and funded by Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade.
I took my motorbike and decided to drive to the closest cocoa farm to see how it got affected.
I expected the worst, but what I saw shocked me. The farm infrastructure had completely collapsed, and a majority of the cocoa trees planted 6 six months ago had lost most of their leaves, and some trees were uprooted. I could not find the owner, Daniel Gapul, who was busy looking for materials at the town market to fix basic farm infrastructure. I met Dan the next day, and he was saddened but hopeful that he would be able to rehabilitate his farm quickly.
Dan belongs among the youngest farmers in Guiuan - he just turned 36 a few days ago. He has been helping his parents with their coconut farm since childhood. Back in 2013, when his farm was entirely destroyed by the super typhoon Yolanda, he took various jobs during post-disaster relief and rehabilitation effort. In 2018, Dan applied for the position of cacao enumerator in our partner NGO People in Need.
“I had no idea what the job entailed. I thought my job would be just data gathering about cocoa farms. I quickly observed that farmers have difficulties looking after their trees, and I decided to get more knowledge and experience about cocoa farming. Thanks to the Programme, I was able to attend the best cocoa training Programme in the Philippines, so-called Cocoa Doctors, and I have learned a lot from several learning visits I participated in.
No doubt, the greatest inspiration has been for me the Programme’s former nursery manager - Peter Paul Cruz from Davao. He has taught me so much about cocoa farming, and thanks to him I fell in love with cocoa. So, I decided to establish a cocoa farm myself in 2019. Initially, my primary motivation was to have an additional income for my family. I have two daughters, 7 and 9 years old, but over time
I have found helping other farmers very enjoyable and fulfilling. Many farmers say cocoa is not going to grow well here in Guiuan and I want to prove them wrong.
Within a few days after the typhoon, Dan and I visited 30 farms and met with their owners. They were devastated. On each farm, Dan showed to the farmers how to deal with damaged and stressed cocoa trees. Although I am not proficient in the local dialect called Waray-Waray, I could sense that farmers listen to Dan very carefully as their worried faces turn to smiles, because of Dan’s infectious light-hearted personality.
“I have 560 well-growing trees, and today; my farm serves as a demonstration farm for other Guiuan growers. Many trainings have been conducted already, and I can observe growers feel encouraged while walking throughout my farm. It makes me proud. Just look at my trees Pavel, some of them will start to bear fruits by the next year, Dan concludes. “
Pavel Muron - Offshore Programme Manager