Who we are
The Philippines is composed of 7100 islands, with about the same land area in total as the UK. It’s just about the farthest east you can get in South East Asia and about 5 degrees north of the Equator. Mindanao is the largest southerly island, and has historically been an area of conflict between Muslims and Christians.
Up until the start of the Second World War, Mindanao was covered in primary tropical forest, with an astonishing variety of wildlife. Today there is approximately 6% of that forest left and the effect on the landscape and wildlife has been dramatic. Of the 584 unique species of fauna and flora, over 400 are classed as endangered.
Initially the most valuable timber was extracted by large scale logging operations, effectively opening up the island with the construction of roads to remove the timber. As Mindanao was cleared, settlement was encouraged from other islands, particularly the Visayas. The productive lowland areas had been taken for plantation growing, so settlement occurred on the hillsides, which were rapidly cleared of their remaining tree cover for food crop production.
The disappearance of the tree cover has led to major problems with degradation of land quality and soil erosion, which attract little attention until events such as the tragic landslide which occurred recently in Leyte.
Although it is classed as a secondary development country, i.e. not third world, levels of personal poverty can be crippling. The average wage for a Filipino sugarcane cutter today is just $2 per day, about £1.20 at current rates.
In 1976 Robert Auld and Linda McClintock went to the Philippines as volunteers with VSO and became greatly inspired by the work of Romy Tiongco and the people of Mindanao. As a result of their collective work several People’s Organisations (POs) were formed to improve the lives of the inhabitants of Mindanao.
In July 1984 MuCARD (Muslim-Christian Agency for Rural Development, Inc.) was established in the Philippines as an umbrella organisation to assist the POs to improve their capabilities to assist small farmers, fisher folk, women and urban poor to gain greater self-confidence. Renamed as MuCAARD (Muslim-Christian Agency for Advocacy, Relief and Development) in 2005, it centres its activities on the island of Mindanao, specifically in the provinces of Lanao del Sur and Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, and Bukidnon. Using participative action research and through seminars, workshops and discussion groups to help people clarify their understanding of present realities, sharpen their vision of an alternative society and undertake appropriate action.
On returning to the Philippines in 2003 Romy and Rob found that many of the problems encountered during their earlier work still remained, and additional problems had arisen. The usually dependable wet and dry seasons have become erratic, making life even more difficult for the farmers who depend upon the land for their livelihood.
They were encouraged to find that MuCAARD was achieving great success improving the lives of the regions poor. They were equally concerned that the valuable work undertaken by MuCAARD was jeopardised by lack of available funds. They agreed that on their return to the UK they wished to make people aware of the pressing problems in Mindanao, and to provide assistance. They actively sought the involvement of Linda McClintock Tiongco, for her lifelong experience with disaster relief and development charities, and Ed Parry for his IT and administrative skills and long-standing support of development and environmental charities.
Thus was born the idea to set up a UK based charity called