I recently had a meal with Rei Panaligan from Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), an NGO that works on protecting communities from the aggressive promotion of large-scale mining. His current work however, is with a program that aims to provide livelihood opportunities to the people particularly affected by Yolanda. The meal was washed down with an avocado smoothie which was absolutely delicious (in case you were wondering). But what is far more interesting is the discussion we had during the meal. The main topic of conversation was the opportunities that follow a major disaster or disturbance.
Coming from a natural science background, this is not a new theory for me. Ecologists have shown that environments with medium disturbance have a higher species diversity and consequently a higher level of resilience. But this is the first time I have thought about it as a human development concept …and it actually makes a lot of sense. I wonder though, does this seem too un-empathetic?
The devastation created by Yolanda has caused pain beyond belief and will continue to impact Tacloban city, both socially and economically, until eventually becoming a part of the city’s history. It has also, however, levelled the playing field for new ideas, entrepreneurs and NGO’s (such as Alyansa Tigil Mina and iCSC) to create change and build back better. The ability of local communities to take advantage of new opportunities has never been higher. Already pushed out of their comfort zones, people tend to be more open about change than they would be otherwise. This may lead to the introduction of more resilient agricultural production, the diversification of employment through economic incentives or even adapting to new methods of transportation and renewable energy (yes… I’ll put a shameless plug for our eJeepneys in just here).
Building back better allows NGO’s organizations to not only alleviate immediate suffering but also provide longer term processes of recovery and development.