El Nino in the Philippines

Vishnu Hariharan, KF10 Philippines

When I read a Kiva Fellows blog, it is a chance for me to switch off from the sparks of self awareness. I teleport across the world for 10 minutes to experience life as another Kiva Fellow – exposing me to the elements shaping the lives of Kiva clients. I would like to expose what I have found to be one of the key elements shaping the lives of ASKI’s clients – El Nino.

El Nino is a seasonal warming of the Pacific Ocean that upsets normal weather patterns and is causing droughts in Northern Philippines. ASKI serves over 4,000 Kiva clients in this area (Luzon) which is the most important island economically in the Philippines. With the agricultural sector employing most of ASKI’s clients and 1/3 of Filipinos; the country’s economy is at the mercy of a prolonged drought induced by El Nino.

Many of the borrower profiles and journals of ASKI clients mention the El Nino phenomenon as the cause for diminished income, food shortages and difficulty in raising standards of living. If an ASKI borrower is not engaged directly in farming, their partner or neighbours almost certainly will be. As rice is the country’s staple, it is intricately connected to the national economy. Its supply is so important that it usually influences inflation. My current location in Isabela province is the worst-hit by the dry spell among 14 provinces nationwide. Statements below illustrate the devastation of El Nino on rice farmers in Northern Philippines and the economy.

Impact to Northern Philippines:

  1. US$33m – loss to agriculture this year. Could reach US$ 400m if El Nino continues until July.
  2. 2.5 million – lost metric tonnes of rice and corn since the start of the year.

Economic effects:

  1. El Nino limited the country’s recovery from the global meltdown that slowed last year’s growth to 0.9%.
  2. The Philippine government has trimmed its 2.6% from 3.6% growth forecast for 2010 given that El Nino is expected to stay for the first half of 2010.

Below is a TV news clip on the impact of El Nino on Northern Philippines. (It is in Tagalog but the footage tells the story)


However, with the Philippines experiencing tsunamis, typhoons and ‘El Nina’ on a regular basis, they have overcome many climatic catastrophes in the recent past.  I have found ASKI clients to be exceptionally hard-working, adaptable and committed to providing for their families. ASKI itself provides several training programs for clients on new businesses such as soap-making to provide new sources of income. In the event of the unforeseen, one thing I have learnt from the Philippines is that people share their problems and communities come together in difficult times. For these reasons and many others, I encourage you to join me in lending to an ASKI entrepreneur today!

Lend to an ASKI entrepreneur today! Your loan will change lives!

Vishnu Hariharan is a Kiva Fellow (KF10) working with ASKI in Cabanatuan City, Philippines. Please click the links for info on ASKIfield partner page & how to join the lending team.

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