Hi! I’m Vanessa and I am a graduate student in the School of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Iowa. I am a Filipina-American who is grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to study climate change impacts in a country of my family’s origin.
In 2010, I was awarded the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Burch Fellowship to receive an extensive training on bamboo with the Bamboo Network of the Philippines (BambooPhil). BambooPhil was an integral component of my climate change and bamboo education in the Philippines, where I learned some of bamboo’s dynamic climate change mitigation/adaptation characteristics. One of these characteristics is bamboo’s rhizomatic root structure, which enables bamboo to grow laterally under the soil; and thus, is effective when planted along mountainsides to stabilize against landslides after heavy rain events. Projected climate change impacts indicate an increase in typhoon strength across the Philippine islands, which have already resulted in large numbers of fatalities in mountainside villages. One example of this was in 2009, when more than 160 people were killed and hundreds more were displaced in landslides across the Cordillera mountain range.
In 2011, I received a Fulbright Fellowship to continue my research and worked with InHand Abra, a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) that has been active in Abra, Luzon for over 30 years. During my time with InHand Abra I experienced first-hand their mission to educate farmers about bamboo and the ways in which it can be sustainably harvested to provide additional income to their households. My research followed three bamboocraft barangays or villages: Mudeng & Udangan, La Paz, bamboo weavers; Poblacion East, Pidigan, bamboo furniture; Pantoc, San Quintin, barbecue/bananacue stick makers. My research consisted of interviews about their daily lives and the impacts of changing seasons, as well as a health survey to understand some of the physical ailments they attributed to harvesting and working with bamboo. You can read a summary report of my work here.
InHand Abra now
I returned to the US in 2012 and have remained in contact with Carmelita Bersalona, the Executive Director of InHand Abra. She recently told me that farmers continue to face many of the same challenges we reported in 2012 related to bamboocraft trade: specifically, barriers to higher-end markets, stagnant wages, and lack of access to modernized processing machinery.
Not much can be done about the Philippine bamboo economy from our shores; however, InHand Abra believes that a bamboo processing tank will greatly improve bamboo farmers’ productivity and quality of life.