Emergency pedagogy in Palawan

We have shared news of Walter Friedrich Hahn’s work in Palawan Island, the Philippines in an earlier post.

In the past months, Palawan too has been caught in the Super Typhoon Rai, or Typhoon Odette as it is known locally. News reports that emerged in December across the New York Times, Reuters, and other news outlets have trickled away as media outlets switched attention to other world news.

NY Times’ report of Super Typhoon Rai to hit the Philippines with first landfall on 16 December. The storm would proceed in waves for the second half of December.

The United Nations issues a video conference around areas affected by Typhoon Odette, as it’s known in the Philippines.

Walter has issued a few newsletter updates in the intervening months, describing the work of the farm in providing Emergency Pedagogy to affected communities.

Within the framework of, or on the fringes of, emergency pedagogy, there are always opportunities to remedy the situation where someone has been overlooked or neglected in the aid measures of the government or other organizations. Overall, the aid measures are well organized on the basis of the political communities, but it still happens more often than you might think that someone needs extra donations, the further you get into the mountains and off the roads, the more so. Or in the case of the community of Bucana, which was completely drenched in mud and whose residents endured the fear of death because of the opening of the dam: this community is not in the recognized damage area of the typhoon and therefore no help can be expected from the government, the church or international agencies . Here we are on our own with our resources, all measures carried out are financed by us alone. In other places it could be a food subsidy, repairing a roof or helping to rebuild an entire house. Whenever possible, we make sure that the means for self-help are given and, in the best case, that know-how can be imparted through working together.

from the newsletter

Business-as-usual disaster relief

Disaster relief is often couched in terms of humanitarian aid. The United Nations and its subsidiary institutions that have grown with it – UNDP, UNICEF, UNEP, are responsible for this discourse. While humanitarian aid speaks the language of human rights, and is influenced by it, it sits within and legitimises a larger structure of lending. The World Bank is the implementing arm of the International Monetary Fund’s financial structures, and continues to make loans, a big chunk through its Agricultural Developmental Programmes through the 1970s-1980s.

From the World Bank’s visualisation of IBRD Statement of Loans by Country, updated February 15 2022. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) loans are public and publicly guaranteed debt extended by the World Bank Group. IBRD loans are made to, or guaranteed by, countries that are members of IBRD. IBRD may also make loans to IFC. IBRD lends at market rates. Data are in U.S. dollars calculated using historical rates. This dataset contains the latest available snapshot of the Statement of Loans. Explore the data.

And yes, there’s history here! Where African countries resisted, countries like Chile, Brazil, Ecuador in Latin America; and Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia in Southeast Asia signed on to these programmes in the 1970s and 1980s.

Today, the idea of lending is tied to the idea of “poor” countries needing more capital to “develop”. Yet these structures were set in place by specific, intentional mechanisms in the 1970s, after the US pulled out of the Bretton Woods Agreement in 1974, in order to deal with its domestic economy’s overproduction problem.

The solution? It set off a period of free-floating currencies, and the IMF created Structural Adjustment Programmes that included a portfolio of lending. The first of these countries to receive loans, Ethopia, realised quickly how the demands that came with these loans replicated their earlier experiences with colonial powers: right down to the level of how households should manage their monies.

This is a useful podcast to listen to, on this whole process.

Today, the Philippines is #9 of countries in the world with the highest loans from the World Bank at 27 billion USD in loans. Its total debt at the end of September 2021 was 230 billion USD. Like other national governments that continue to work with debt, the Duterte government has been described as “not afraid of debt” (The Diplomat), focusing on spending its way of it.

A different kind of relief is needed

World Bank loan-based relief – much of which is meant to go directly into humanitarian aid organisations that suck up any loans – creates the “frame” and “solution” to disaster.

None of these programmes are suited to meet the needs of people in the Philippines and other countries, who have watched their economies and cultures devastated by repeated colonisation.

Walter’s biodynamic work in Palawan goes some way towards this, while providing practical aid and emotional trauma relief. Trauma is a big topic, and the way it intersects especially with Global South economies, will be an immensely important part of long-term regeneration of local cultural institutions and lives.

Likewise, there are always opportunities to convey basic concepts of nutrition, medicine, education or agriculture as part of or on the fringes of emergency pedagogical assignments. While the emergency rations of other contributors contain almost exclusively instant noodles with flavor enhancers and white rice, we make sure that we bring whole rice and fresh vegetables and herbs with us, a small part of which can be harvested on our land. Grace teaches how the plants in the area can be meaningfully integrated into healing processes and shows the great effect that compresses and footbaths can have. And with relatively little effort in speaking, concepts such as the open-ended toy can be understood because they become visible during our operations.

At the same time, follow-up projects from these assignments are in the air, be it in education, agriculture or the development of sensible, ecologically justifiable small businesses. The sources of income have been largely destroyed and it takes 15 years for a coconut palm or a cashew tree to grow back to full harvest. Every third house in the country already has a Sari Sari Store (a store with some „basic“ needs), but you won’t be able to survive on trade alone. And for now, hundreds of thousands of people are being fed via feeding programmes. In order to secure life in the long term, sustainable sources of income must be developed.

Pictures are from an emergency educational mission Walter and Grace carried out in January 2022.

Biodynamics in Palawan? Moving beyond black/white categories

At this point, though, I also want to highlight: the use of biodynamic agriculture may seem out of place in Palawan. And yet, how can different groups of practitioners come to develop new structures together, with humility and openness to change, to work together to build egalitarian relationships?

While I wholeheartedly support the food vision, I also think any idea of seeing local people as “childlike”, or some people as more childlike than others, draws on ideas of a hierarchy of human maturation that have been more destructive than supportive. Yet, if we work beyond black/white understandings of goodness/badness, we may come to see beyond the words (translated across a few languages), to how people engage with one another.

To engage more fully with the trauma, healing, and support structures needed in the next decade, including practices to defuse eco-fascism: Heather Luna has an excellent set of workshops, and runs trainings and consultations, at her company Keduzi.

Walter Siegfried Hahn and Grace Zozobrado Hahn share more about emergency pedagogy in their newsletter, and you can learn more about their work at

For orientation on what happens with the donations: an emergency pedagogical intervention costs around 1,000 to 2,000 euros – depending on whether other sponsors contribute to the costs, a complete house 500 to 1,000 euros, a roof or minor damage 100 to 200 euros. We still have plenty of seeds from our own production and otherwise we shall work together with other seed initiatives in the north of the country. We also have 80 water filters worth 20 euros from previous initiatives in stock – if we have to buy more, we have to reckon with 30 to 40 euros each, with which a large family can easily be supplied with drinking water.

If you would like to support their work, they do receive donations, which can be transferred to the following accounts:

Directly to the Philippines via
Account Name Koberwitz 1924 Inc.
Account Number 130-3-13024518-9 with Metropolitan Bank and Trust Co.
Rizal Avenue, Puerto Princesa City, BIC (Swift) MBTCPHMMXXX
Here, it is necessary to state the postal code 5300, my e-mail address and that the addressee is a charity / non-profit company.

If you are in Europe:

Germany: Future Foundation Development at GLS-Treuhand e.V., GLS Gemeinbank eG Bochum
IBAN: DE05 430 609 67 0012 33 00 10, BIC: GENODEM1GLS
Intended use: Koberwitz-Palawan

Switzerland: Acacia-Verein, Basel, Freie Gemeinbank, Basel IBAN: CH93 0839 2000 0040 0800 6, BIC: FRGGCHB1 Project note: Kulturimpuls Philippinen