Six months later: Rebuilding Sustainable Communities Post-Haiyan

Posted by Devon Wong & filed under Sustainability Issue 2014.


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It’s been six months since Haiyan, but survivors have yet to fully recover from the super typhoon’s dramatic impacts. Affected communities are realizing the importance of breaking the “bust and build” cycle with each passing typhoon season, and looking to develop future resilience. As cities are produced through the individual interactions and activities of its people utilizing the local infrastructure, services, and environment, sustainability and resilience can only be produced by looking at the city as a system, and looking at how different sectors relate and connect.

Here’s a short photo essay of some of the recovery activities ongoing in Easter Samar, Philippines.

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Coconut farming is a primary agricultural export in the Philippines, and one of the main industries obliterated by Typhoon Haiyan.

During the super typhoon, the 195mph winds destroyed over 30 million coconut trees. The trees will take at least six years to grow back, but until then, many enterprising survivors are finding ways to make lemons into lemonade… namely, turning fallen coconut trees into coconut lumber for repairing their homes. Clearing the trees will also lessen the impact on the ecosystem.





In rural communities, most people create a livelihood from the available natural resources. With Typhoon Haiyan wiping out most of the existing fishing and agricultural industries in Eastern Samar, survivors are turning to alternative ways of to earn income.

A livelihood is considered sustainable (and resilient) sustainable “when it can cope with and recover from stresses and shocks, and maintain or enhance its capabilities and assets both now and in the future” (UK Department for International Development). This could be created through skills training or providing resources such as tools and appropriate infrastructure.

For local fisherfolk, this could mean repairing boats as a means to restore livelihood, and then creating long-term resilience through measures like building a boat shed to store assets during future typhoons, or having a non-climate dependent means of income.





Many of the damaged homes caused by Typhoon Haiyan were attributed to the lack of proper infrastructure. Homes typically seen in these rural communities are made of light and available materials, such as sheet-metal roofing, scrap wood, and tarps.

“Building back better” means building back safer shelters (and communities) that are more resilient in future disasters. This could mean small changes in construction methods, substituting building materials, and even relocating to less disaster-prone areas.

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Infrastructure is vital in connecting all elements of economy, shelter and environment. This could mean creating roads or bridges in well-trafficked areas for fishermen to bring their haul to market, or locating institutions like schools, hospitals and evacuation centres in key areas to deliver social services.

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