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The Fishermen’s Livelihood Project in Paratong Elementary School, Bangar, La Union

Stone Picking is what the fishermen do when they cannot go to sea to fish

There is a Filipino folk song that says “Planting rice is never fun”. Ourfarmer-beneficiaries in the Sudipen, La Union areas know that by heart because it is an everyday reality for them. But aside from plating rice, another job that requires hardwork, patience and strength is fishing – the fisher folks of the sea-side town of Paratong in Bangar, La Union know this by heart.

The life of a fisherman is never easy and is always full of surprises. On a good day, an average Paratong, Bangar, La Union fisherman could earn 250-500 Philippine pesos from his fishing activities. That income that they earned would be just enough for their family to eat three whole meals on that day. However, whenever the weather is bad or if their fishing equipments need to be repaired, their pockets are empty. During these trying days, they try to earn money by stone-picking. Stone-picking is a tiresome activity: under the glaring heat of the sun one must pick beautiful stones, for landscaping & gardening needs, in the beach all day. The result? On a good day of stone-picking, they earn 150 pesos. On a bad day, they go home with a measly 50 pesos in their pockets. And when you have hungry mouths to feed, it doesn’t take an economist to know that 50 or 150 pesos is not enough. Read more about the plight of the poor Paratong fisherfolks in the next page.

HBI knows that these poor Paratong fishermen need help. There is nothing we can do about the weather – that’s Mother Nature’s call. But there’s something we can do about their old and worn-out fishing equipments. On June 2009 HBI, through the support of their longtime partner-in-service, CO-OPERAID Switzerland, and the funding of the Swiss Solidarity Foundation, started the Fishermen’s Livelihood Project in Paratong Elementary School. The project aims to provide new fishing equipments and tools to the fishermen/parents of the schooling children.

Fishermen's Livelihood Project in Bangar, La Union
Fishermen’s Livelihood Project in Bangar, La Union

Fast forward to today, the fishermen have established a fishing cooperative in Paratong and are working hard to ensure that this project would be sustainable for 15 years. Know more about the Fishermen’s Livelihood Project by clicking on the “Read more” button below.

If you are wondering as to what is the Fishermen’s Livelihood Project, you need not wonder no more for we will explain it. Under this HBI – CO-OPERAID project, marginalized and poor fishermen will be given new sets of fishing nets and water floaters which they could use to augment the income they get from their fishing activities. For a fisherman to qualify for this project, he/she must be a resident of Paratong, Bangar, La Union and he/she has a raft or a boat to carry the fishnets. The fisher folk should also be parent of a Paratong Elementary School pupil.

Fishermen's Livelihood Project in Bangar, La Union
Fishermen’s Livelihood Project in Bangar, La Union

Once the fishnets are distributed, it is the fishermen-participants who will take charge in assembling the net to have “sinkers” and the “floaters” ready for use. Each fishnet will be cared for by the fishermen so that in case of loss, they will be responsible in locating the lost net at sea. In case of damage, the two fishermen will mend/repair the net until it becomes usable again. The assembly and maintenance of the fishnets are the fishermen’s counterparts in the project.

Since the Fishermen’s Livelihood Project is a joint project of the Paratong Elementary school and Paratong community, the fishermen participants are required to give 25% of their total sale to the school. This school share could then be used by the school to fund school improvement projects. A project committee composed of fisher folks and school teachers will decide as to what priority projects would be implemented and they will hold consultation meetings with all the members during an assembly meeting. A bank account will then be opened to safeguard the share / income of the school. Signatories will be the Parent, Teachers and Community President, a Paratong School Teacher and the HBI area social worker.

The project may appear intricate and complicated but because of the technical support provided by HBI, the dedication exerted by the Paratong Elementary School teachers and the hardwork of the Paratong fisherfolks, the project have yielded not just more income, but also a sense of sustainability.

Fishermen's Livelihood Project in Bangar, La Union
Fishermen’s Livelihood Project in Bangar, La Union

As of today, there are still 77 fishermen who are active members of the HBI-Paratong Fishermen’s Livelihood Project. The first batch of fishermen-beneficiaries received their new fishing equipments last June 2009. On the other hand, another 30 fishermen received their new fishing equipments just this February 2010. The reason why there are two batches of fishermen is because there are two groups of fisher folks in Paratong – those who fish in the river and those who fish in the sea. According to the beneficiaries, river-fishing yields the best income during the months of July-December. On the other hand, sea-fishing hits its peak season during the months of January-June.