When Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) hit the coastal villages of Sua and Tiabas, San Dionisio, Iloilo on November 8, 2013, the means of livelihood of the residents were destroyed. Almost all the boats were ruined and their meager seaweed farms were washed away. For this reason, the club adopted these villages.

The Rotary Club of Metro Iloilo (RCMI) provided them with boats, seaweed implements and seaweed seedlings. This was a planned long term project dubbed as “Rotary FishVille,” consisting of projects that included boat building, boat repair, construction of fish aggregating devices, deployment of artificial coral reefs and seaweed farming. RCMI has sustained this project from November 2013 (just after Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan struck) up to the present.

Last year, the residents were organized into the RCC of Sua and the RCC of Tiabas. Members of the RCMI have been regularly visiting them and providing them with support and inculcated in them the value of self-sufficiency.

The seaweed farms of the RCCs increased from an original area of 1 hectare to more than 20 hectares at present. Previously, the seaweeds were just dried and sold to middle men. However, the RCC members invited resource persons from the Department of Trade and Industry to train them in processing and packaging the seaweeds.

As a result, they were able to acquire new techniques in processing the seaweeds to noodles, cookies, pickles, chips and crispy “kropek”. These are being sold on a retail basis in the sari-sari (variety) stores in their municipality and to retail buyers who visit their place. They report that they can hardly meet the demand for their products and hope to expand their production capacity and market outlets. Several institutional agencies have taken interest in purchasing their products wholesale.

RCMI aims to support them through the procurement of the equipment such as dryers, ovens and noodle makers, and the development of better packaging and t provide marketing venues for the products in Iloilo City and in other part of the country.

The seaweed farms have provided the village residents with a source of livelihood that holds a lot of promise. Charitable organizations from as far as Manila and even Australia are interested in opening up markets for the seaweed products of the RCCs.

RCMI members can attest to the marketability of the seaweed products. RCMI Rotarians themselves have tasted the kropek, chips, cookies, pickles and noodles and they find them delicious. In fact, RCMI Rotarians always purchase and bring home seaweed goodies every time they visit the RCCs in Sua and Tiabas, San Dionisio, Iloilo.

This can be truly considered one of the success stories in the efforts of RCMI to help the typhoon victims. With the support of RCMI, the villagers have become self-sufficient and are on the road to a successful enterprise.

By: PP Cyril Regalado