Launched in April 2015, Oxfam's climate change adaptation (CCA) and disaster risk reduction (DRR) programme in the Philippines focuses on conflict-prone and climate change-sensitive areas, as well as areas affected by Typhoon Haiyan in Mindanao. The Philippines Resilience Programme seeks to make economically poor communities more resilient to the unavoidable impacts of climate change. The programme builds on Oxfam's experience in the Philippines to enable people, especially women, to understand and adapt to the changing climate and associated risks. The programme is comprised of two projects: Empowering Poor Women and Men in Building Resilient and Adaptive Communities in Mindanao (EMBRACE), and Women Increased Resilience and Empowered against Disasters (WIRED). Both projects work to increase people's capacities to adapt to climate change, while also encouraging government agencies to become more supportive and accountable on adaptation. The programme aims to reach 7,000 individuals by March 2019, 60% of whom will be women.

Communication Strategies: 

Collaboration is a core programme approach. Oxfam is working with non-governmental organisation (NGO) partners in close coordination with Local Government Units (LGUs), ensuring the active participation of partner LGUs in capacity-building activities, particularly in participatory risk assessments (PRAs) and in developing their CCA and DRR plans. Oxfam is also working with a national NGO partner, Institute of Climate Studies for Small Cities. Oxfam and partners continue to coordinate with provincial governments as well as the Department of Interior and Local Government, and the Office of Civil Defence, as lead agencies in DRR.

Through these partnerships the programme is addressing and shifting power relations at three levels:

  • Between rights holders and duty-bearers - by using social accountability mechanisms and helping community members develop the knowledge, skills, and capacity they need to hold LGUs to account.
  • Between men and women - by increasing women's access to information, resources, and opportunities; developing their capacities; helping them gain access to economic and decision making spaces; and by reducing their disproportionate care responsibilities.
  • Between markets and small farmers - by helping men and women farmers engage with the private sector and push for risk-transfer mechanisms, such as micro-insurance schemes.

This approach is using six key strategies:

  1. PRAs
  2. Community mobilisation for DRR and CCA planning and implementation of adaptation measures
  3. Capacity building for local communities and institutions
  4. Advancement of ecologically sound, women-inclusive, and climate-sensitive livelihood interventions
  5. Governance and policy advocacy, by investing in networking with coalitions and alliance-building
  6. Developing and sharing knowledge and learning

For example, to look at one of the two programme's focal points, WIRED aims to empower women and girls by: building their confidence to lead and participate in governance for disaster resilience; enabling them to develop resilient agricultural livelihoods; improving their capacity to address reproductive and sexual health problems, especially during emergencies; reducing barriers (particularly care work) to women's and girls' leadership and participation; and improving practices towards resilient livelihoods and more equal economic relations. To do this, WIRED uses the "bibingka approach" - addressing problems simultaneously at policy and operational levels. In this "top-down and bottom-up" approach, women are encouraged to systematically express their concerns on risks and impacts of DRR and management, so the specific issues they face can be addressed with proper solutions. It also addresses gender inequalities through transformative leadership, and it builds on indigenous knowledge and skills. The project focuses heavily on care work, recognising it as one of the main barriers to women's and girls' leadership. WIRED's approach also allows women's and girls' intergenerational concerns to be explored and expressed, while encouraging partnerships that bring together stakeholders from diverse organisations, including for-profit institutions, civil society actors, and academia.

WIRED has also supported KAKASA, a women's rights organisation, providing training on skills, business development, and DRR management processes. Its women-to-women learning method of empowering women in the community has been recognised by the LGU, which gave them a seat on the LGU committee. According to Oxfam, partnering with an organisation that is perceived as an expert in DRR and CCA, while strengthening self-help groups, has built trust with communities. The programme secured buy-in and ownership in two key ways: by developing local talent and by collaborating with people who were already familiar with intervention locations and understood communities' power structures. Finally, Oxfam's flexibility in adjusting strategies and implementation plans to suit fast-changing contexts meant the intervention addressed priorities that mattered most to local communities.

EMBRACE aims to support economically poor farmers in Mindanao: to improve their crop yields; to plant and harvest at the right time and earn more for their produce; and to develop climate change resistant livelihoods and farming strategies. The project has shown that with the right knowledge and foresight, economically poor people can avoid the worst effects of climate change, for example by using locally available resources as farm inputs. The project has also helped local governments to use their limited means to anticipate weather-related shocks, for example by setting up automated weather stations and developing CCA and DRR plans. In fact, all 10 partner LGUs have created DRR management plans, and are currently working towards their plans being financed and implemented. Through this two-pronged approach of working with community members and LGUs, the programme has also introduced a social accountability component, which makes LGUs more accountable for CCA-DRR planning, budgeting, resource allocation, implementation, and integration of community feedback.

As part of this effort, Oxfam explored the use of information and communication technology (ICT) at the community level for CCA. Specifically, the programme wanted to help farmers overcome the challenges of erratic weather by sending them timely information on the weather. Using text messages, Oxfam sent farmers weather forecasts and advised them on the best times to plant seeds and harvest crops. Using forecasts from the Automated Weather Systems, the app sends text messages to farmers whenever extreme weather events are forecast. The pilot was tested in 2016 on 18 people over a couple of months. Assessment showed SMS (text message)-based information was giving people a vital early warning. The system will now be rolled out to four other LGUs for use in their communities.

El Niño severely affected programme locations between October 2015 and June 2016, which meant the programme had to swiftly shift focus from development to humanitarian response. However, some aspects of the original programme design could be adapted. For example, through the use of early warning mechanisms, partner LGUs were able to conduct an information campaign at the community level to help communities select and plant crops that could survive in dry conditions. In April 2016, Oxfam and partners also mobilised community members affected by El Niño to participate in high-level policy discussions. These talks were designed to raise decision makers' awareness of the serious social and economic repercussions of El Niño at community level, and outlined the need for robust government actions on risk mitigation and disaster recovery.

Along those lines, Oxfam and its partners are also setting up national forums (for presidential candidates) and local forums, where leaders of today and tomorrow can discuss and share their ideas and commitments on CCA and DRR. Oxfam ensures that these discussions pay special attention to the needs and roles of women.

Development Issues: 

Environment, Risk Management, Women

Key Points: 

Rationale for the programme:
According to Oxfam, the Philippines is the fourth most disaster-prone country in the world and is frequently visited by storms, earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides, flash floods, and sea-level rise. In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan caused devastation in 44 of the country's 80 provinces, affecting more than 16 million people. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN), the 2015-2016 El Niño caused US$325 million worth of damage and production losses in crops.

Oxfam explains that climate change impacts worsen existing gender inequalities because when disaster strikes, women find themselves working even harder on domestic responsibilities. Social norms require women to carry the burden of child rearing and household chores, and when disasters strike they care for sick family members while also helping to make ends meet, despite dealing with the loss of household assets or having to walk further to collect water. This takes them away from work that could enhance their livelihoods through participation in the economy. In rural settings, social norms already limit women's participation in decision making. They have limited access to education and training and fewer opportunities to earn an income.

Impact to date:
Looking at the households involved in the programme, a 2014 external evaluation confirmed a substantial increase in those categorised as "low vulnerability": from 14.5% at baseline to 36% at endline. Households categorised as having "moderate vulnerability" reduced from 78.5% at baseline to 64% at endline. The evaluation found that even communities who were not part of the programme have shown knowledge gains. This is partly thanks to duty-bearers focusing on awareness-raising, but it also suggests the relevance and validity of the programme's participatory strategy and its multiplier effect. Focus group discussions also revealed that the programme has improved social relations and community participation, boosting people's self-confidence and self-esteem. The effect was particularly noticeable among women.

Partner Text: 

LGUs and the Institute of Climate Studies for Small Cities


Email from Oxfam Policy & Practice to The Communication Initiative on July 31 2017; and "DRR and CCA in the Philippines: Promoting Women's Participation and Leadership", by Sarah Barakat, July 10 2017 and Oxfam website, both accessed on August 4 2017. Tessa Bunney/Oxfam