From typhoons to traders: the role of patron-client relations in mediating fishery responses to natural disasters

The majority of the world's fishers, fishworkers and their dependents live in coastal tropical areas that are, and will be, highly exposed to human-induced climate change. Projections indicate such change could result in coastal populations being more frequently and acutely impacted by natural disasters. Increasing aid interventions is a likely knock-on effect of such scenarios. How these external natural and social disturbances interact and affect local fisheries and small-scale producers is in part determined by the internal dynamics of the social-ecological system (SES). Economic vulnerability often characterizes communities in these settings and influences the means with which they navigate changes. The patron-client system is prolific in many rural economies and small-scale fisheries. It forms a central element in the organization of market interactions and often provides much needed finance for low-income households in place of formal options. How such injection of capital promotes individuals' ability to buffer income fluctuations at the expense of long-term sustainability of the broader fishery system is still an area in need of examination. This paper contributes to shed light on this issue by using a case study approach to trace the historical development of the fishery system in the Iloilo Province (Philippines) in relation to a major natural disaster—super-typhoon Haiyan, known locally as Yolanda—and the subsequent aid intervention that followed. The aim is to assess how the patron-client system filtered these two related disturbances and to highlight the resulting tensions between short-term individual resilience and longer-term SES sustainability.

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Keywords: Fisheries, Trade, Marine resources, Disasters

Citation: Drury O'Neill, E., Crona, B., Ferrer, A.,J.G and Pomeroy, R 2019 Environmental Research Letters 14 (4)

From typhoons to traders: the role of patron-client relations in mediating fishery responses to natural disasters

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