Women, Mat Weaving and Climate Change

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“We weave our Romblon mats and bags at dawn or when it is raining, We cannot weave when it is hot because the “Romblon” material that we use will break”, laments Mansueta Patrias, 55, when asked how climate change affected her bag and romblon- mat making alternative livelihood.

Mansueta added that unlike before, she can still weave bags or mats until 10:00 o’clock in the morning and continue weaving again at 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon. But now, weaving should start earlier that there are even times when she wakes up at 3:00 o’clock in the morning especially if she gets orders for her products. “Waking up at dawn simply means weaving more bags or mats” quips Mansueta.

image-02As a member of the Nagkahiusang Kristohanong Mag-uuma sa Maputi (NAKRISMA), a people’s organization at Barangay Maputi, San Isidro, Davao Oriental, Mansueta along with the other men and women members of the organization are the living witnesses of how climate change have affected their community livelihood. Moreover, they come to realize that they ought to protect their forests and plant more trees to mitigate the effect of climate change on their water resources, agro-forestry farms and the production of the Romblon materials for bag and mat weaving.

Romblon is a variety of pandan species mainly used as raw materials for handicraft-making such as mats, bags and placemats. Ideally, romblon can be harvested in two years from the time of planting

Organized in 1993 under the Community-Based Forest Management (CBFM) Program of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR-XI), NAKRISMA members were given the opportunity to improve their skills in seedling production, tree plantation and agro-forestry development and romblon mat-weaving. Even before the CBFM was launched in the area, romblon-mat weaving is already one of the alternative livelihoods of the women in the barangay, however their clients and designs were very limited and they were devoid of production equipments such as sewing machines and cauldron.

Out of the CBFM efforts through Forested Marylou Zarasate, the Romblon mat-weaving project was launched in 2004 under the Community Livelihood Special Project (CLASP). The women of NAKRISMA received PhP 70,000.00 for this project. As they improve their mat-weaving skills, they also learned to venture into making new designs for their bags.

As an offshoot, NAKRISMA won the Best Practices Certificate for the Dubai-United Arab Emirates and the United Nation Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) for their outstanding initiative on Romblon-mat weaving. The Dubai International Award for Best Practices (DIABP) plays a crucial role in the identification of best practices from around the world.

Winning the international award paved the way for the women and NAKRISMA’s product promotion, hence the demand for their mats and bags increased. The DENR, prompted by this development, immediately saw the need to also increase their “Romblon and Nito” plantations, thus the Romblon and Nito project was launched in June 2009 and another five-hectare was established under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) in 2010.

In support of the NAKRISMA endeavors, the New Zealand International Aid Development Agency (NZAID) also granted NAKRISMA PhP75,000.00 in 2011 which were used for trainings, construction of their production center and purchase of production equipments and supplies.

To ensure the sustainability of the livelihood of women and the effective protection of the forests within Barangay Maputi, DENR XI’s Regional Executive Director Jim O. Sampulna has instructed the CBFM Office and the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) Lupon, Davao Oriental to constantly monitor the organization and to give them the necessary technical assistance. “Our Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje has always been thankful to the different peoples’ organization like the NAKRISMA. He has ordered all the field offices in the country to strengthen the POs in order to propel them to help in the environmental management and protection activities of the department”, Sampulna added.

To date, women mat and bag weavers of NAKRISMA still continuously receive orders from various clients while adapting with changes in climate. Their greatest challenge nowadays is on sustaining the supply Romblon and Nito, coping with the market demands in terms of design and quality and expanding their markets.

“The link between climate change and mat weaving as well as its effect of this on the livelihood of women in San Isidro is evident. Adapting to the changes is imperative to sustain their economic endeavors. (Bing Cordova/DENR-XI PR).