TACLOBAN CITY- The International Labour Organization (ILO) is stepping up its efforts to provide sustainable livelihoods to affected workers, including coconut farm workers here in Leyte.

The ILO has signed a memorandum of understanding with the provincial government of Leyte and Leyte Union of Producers of Agri-Products (LUPA) to kick start a project worth P 7.37 million that will provide sustainable livelihoods to 700 workers through contour farming. The project will be implemented in the municipalities of Palo, Sta. Fe, Burauen and Leyte-Leyte. The ILO, with funding from the government of Japan, will support the workers in contour farming as an alternative livelihood opportunity, using the sloping agriculture land technology (SALT) in Leyte, one of the areas hardly-hit by supertyphoon Yolanda.

At the beginning of the year, workers under the emergency employment program already cleared areas with destroyed coconut trees. The lands have been cleared but have not been utilized by the landlords as they could not afford to invest in coconut or other plantations right after the typhoon leaving coconut farmers with no source of income. Since most are not skilled, they find it difficult to get viable jobs.

LUPA has also signed the land lease agreements with the landlords to make available of their lands to the coco-workers for cultivation for at least ten years. The beneficiaries of the project will plant high value short-term crops, which could answer the abrupt need of source of income considering the high demands of these products in the local markets.

To help beneficiaries become more resilient to natural calamities, the workers will be provided with integrated farming-cum-entrepreneurship development skills training and link them as producers, consumers and traders to help ensure high returns. The ILO has assisted 3,791 workers in Leyte during the emergency employment phase of its response and is geared towards providing sustainable livelihoods to typhoon-affected workers while giving them access to social protection. (JAZMIN BONIFACIO)