Philippines: Building Bridges To A Better Life

In a village affected by conflict in Mindanao, in the Philippines, a bridge-building project supported by the Canadian Government is helping local people rebuild their lives and improve food security.

The barangay or village of Tubak lies about 150 kilometers outside of Cotabato City in Maguindanao in the Philippines. The community is home to over 500 households or about 3,000 people, most of whom belong to the indigenous tribe of the Dulangan Manobo.

Agriculture is the primary source of income in Tubak, with 99 percent of adults working in fields that have been passed down from generation to generation. They grow rice, corn and other crops for sale in the nearest market in Esperanza, Sultan Kudarat.

Travel to Esperanza happens frequently but the 43-kilometer journey on narrow, winding roads is neither quick nor easy. The already arduous travel conditions are exacerbated by sudden downpours that turn the unpaved roads to mud.

“Travel during or after the rain is challenging, especially when we’re transporting commodities because we can only afford to use motorcycles,” said Santos Uloy, a farmer and barangay Chairman of Tubak. “The rainy season is difficult for the children, too. A number of them walk to school, even when the weather is bad. By the time they arrive, they’re cold and tired, and their classes haven’t even begun yet,”

When WFP’s Cash For Assets (CFA) project was introduced to Tubak, consultations were held with key community stakeholders and it became clear that addressing this issue was a priority.

One proposal was to construct two small bridges to help residents cross particularly problematic sections of road. With the guidance of WFP and the local government, a group of 143 men and 20 women worked together to build the bridges using locally-sourced materials.

The Cash for Assets project participants in barangay Tubak work together to complete the bridges.

Since the completion of the bridges, travel to and from Tubak is easier. “Nowadays, it’s less stressful for us to transport our goods to the market. We no longer lose time trying to get around those difficult areas,” said Santos. “We’re also proud of our accomplishment because we have a sense of ownership over it. We can look at those bridges and proudly say: ‘We did that!’.”

Santos Uloy happily received Php2,000 for his participation in the CFA project.

In addition to improving access to Tubak, the project provided a source of income for those who worked on it. The Canadian Government, through WFP, provided Php6,000 (USD 129) to each participant for their 30 days of work. “This money gives us additional support for our families. I’m a father of five children, so every amount helps us in purchasing needs such as food and medicine,” said Santos. “Receiving cash assistance while we help ourselves is special. I can’t remember the last time I received this much money in a single payout.”

In 2016, the Canadian Government provided over Php4 million (USD 90,000) in support of WFP’s Cash For Assets projects in conflict-affected areas of Central Mindanao.