MOVE UP mobile market: Creating alternative livelihoods for pandemic-affected communities in Cotabato City, Philippines

Photo: The MOVE UP team, partners from local government, and members of community savings groups in Barangay Rosary Heights 3, one of five barangays covered by the activity.

The coronavirus pandemic is affecting not just the health but also the livelihoods of people around the world. In Cotabato City, many from urban poor communities have been unable to work because of strict quarantine measures imposed across the Philippines, midway through March 2020.

To help partner communities tap alternative sources of livelihood and provide affordable, fresh, healthy food accessible to locals staying at home, the Moving Urban Poor Communities Toward Resilience Project (MOVE UP) organised a mobile palengke (market). 

MOVE UP is an urban resilience project funded by the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations and is implemented by PLAN International, Action Against Hunger, CARE, and ACCORD Inc.  Currently, it is in its third phase, the initiative is being implemented in four cities across the Philippines – Marikina, Taguig, Cebu, and Cotabato City.

MOVE UP worked with the local government of Cotabato City and two community savings groups (CSG), which were formed as part of the project’s strategies to enhance urban resilience through improving financial literacy and creating sustainable livelihoods. Before the pandemic, members of the CSGs made a living by selling food products, tailoring, or working as housekeepers, through the mobile palengke they sold fish, chicken, fruits, vegetables, and spices.

Community consultation and planning

Photo: Community savings group members helped decide what items to sell.

Throughout the whole process, the CSG members were actively involved in decision-making, and there was always proper coordination with the local government.

The first step was to conduct consultations with the relevant stakeholders. The team met with the barangay and city local government through the members of the project’s Technical Working Group on Resilient Livelihood, and members of the CSGs. The next phase involved figuring out which commodities to sell, making the necessary logistics arrangements, looking for cost-efficient suppliers, and computing for potential revenue, among other planning-related tasks.

To promote the activity, city and barangay local governments worked together to help spread the word.

Market day:

Photo: The team unloads items and sets up the mobile palengke in a barangay in Cotabato City.

The mobile palengke went to five communities in one day, spending two hours in each site to distribute and sell the items. MOVEUP staff made announcements on-site in the local language using a megaphone to let the communities know that a mobile palengke was present to provide them with fresh and healthy produce. Physical distancing was observed, and the team used masks and disposable gloves to follow COVID-19 precautions.

Locals were very much appreciative of the fresh vegetables and meat they were able to acquire for a reasonable price.

Focusing on people rather than just profit

Photo: Vegetables are repacked the day before the activity.

The mobile palengke gave partner communities a chance to explore an alternative livelihood and brought food to communities facing difficulties accessing markets. It also allowed the MOVE UP team to evaluate how they could help improve the livelihoods of CSG members.

It was a good reminder that exploring alternative livelihoods entails taking risks – as all livelihood pursuits have associated risks – and learning from the challenges.

Most importantly, it was a reminder that making livelihoods more resilient is more than a quest for profitability. The systems that make livelihoods more likely to be profitable, sustainable and humane must also be improved. This requires including communities to fully participate in the decision-making process and working together with local governments to create an empowering environment. The gains from these efforts may not be as tangible and immediate as turning a profit, but they pave the way for the longer-term, systemic changes needed to help empower urban poor communities.

To bolster urban resilience we must place people, rather than just profit, at the center of livelihood efforts.


Moving Urban Poor Communities towards Resilience (MOVEUP) is an urban resilience project funded by the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations and is implemented by PLAN International, Action Against Hunger, CARE, and ACCORD Inc.