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Pushing Water Uphill

13th September 2013 by Reuben Levermore, Manila | 1 Comment

Sometimes small wins can give as much satisfaction as larger ones.  New Zealand’s development assistance to the Philippines is mostly focused on larger scale projects to support economic development and reduce poverty.  But we also have the flexibility to support each year some worthy small-scale projects up to a current maximum of 700,000 Philippine pesos (or around $ NZ 20,000).  Whether projects are large or small, what matters most is achieving the right results.

Recently, Joseph Imperial the New Zealand Embassy Aid Manager, went to Negros Occidental province to visit one of three projects that received support for the 2013 year under the Embassy’s Head of Mission Fund.  Sitio May-ang in Tagukon is a community of around 120 households which for decades has sourced its water from a creek situated down a slippery slope nearly half a mile away.  This has meant women and children rising early in the morning to fetch water and trudge uphill along a sometimes muddy path while carrying 20 liters of water on their shoulders.

New Zealand Embassy Aid Manager Joseph Imperial

New Zealand Embassy Aid Manager Joseph Imperial beside the ram pumps delivering water uphill to the community of Sitio May-ang

Now, thanks to pumps installed by the Ecological and Agricultural Development Foundation, the women and children of Sitio May-ang can carry out other duties instead.   The pumps operate without electricity or fuel and rely on the momentum of flowing water from a source above.

What has impressed us most is the community effort supporting this project, which will have an impact well beyond the modest funding that the New Zealand Embassy provided to kick-start it.  For their part, residents of the community have hauled gravel and sand for the construction of the water tank and laying of pipes.  Every household will plant at least 20 trees so that they can ensure that water will continuously flow from its source.   Kabankalan City Mayor Isidro Zayco has tasked the city’s engineering office to pave the dirt road to the community.   And additionally, the municipal government has committed to fund another project site.


Aid Manager Joseph Imperial talks to the women of Sitio May-ang with the assistance of Ecoagri Executive Director Moraca as translator

The experience reminds me of a visit that Joseph and I made last year to Benguet province.  There, Governor Nestor Fongwan talked to us about a New Zealand forestry and water reticulation project in the municipality of La Trinidad, which provided potable water and irrigation for strawberry farms along La Trinidad Valley.  He said that the model had been replicated in six other towns in the province through the support of other aid partners and that Benguet province would also use local funds to apply it in more communities.

These are examples of how genuine collaboration between aid donors, grassroots organisations and local governments can improve the lives of the local populace, well beyond the life of the initial project.  Our experience in Negros Occidental and Benguet encourage us that with the right discipline, cooperation, and leadership, sometimes even a little can go a long way.  The next round of applications for the Head of Mission Fund closes on 30 September.  If you have an initiative that can directly and demonstrably meet development needs in the Philippines, we want to hear from you.  You can find the guidelines and application form on our Embassy website.

New Zealand Minister of Commerce Craig Foss

New Zealand Minister of Commerce Craig Foss presents a Head of Mission Fund award for 2013 to EcoAgri representatives Aladino Moraca and Marvin Velayo, during his visit to Manila in March.


One Response to “Pushing Water Uphill”

  1. Walter Ty Walter Ty says:

    The days of “one size fits all” projects which institutions like the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, & the International Monetary Fund had advocated for developing countries are long gone. Small & medium-scale projects which take into account the specific individual needs of each community are the way to go, utilising basic technology. Initiatives like these would benefit the residents of each community in the long-term.

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