Reaching new heights in development: A case of bringing safe water access to the hinterland
Some 600 meters above sea level and 55 kilometers from downtown Dipolog somewhere on the narrow winding road on the side of the Zamboanga del Norte mountains, AMORE Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH) projects manager, Julius Oliveros, gets off the four-wheeled pick-up and on to a habal-habal – a motorcycle – for the rest of the journey to Brgy. Panampalay. Rains are an almost daily occurrence in this exquisite tropical rainforest-shrouded area; and as if that wasn’t enough to make the ground wet and slippery, the monsoon rains pour down to soak the earth to a dangerous level. Julius is still a few kilometres away from the village – talk about a hinterland! – yet he already thinks to himself that there is no way the safe water project could be implemented here. For while the upland villagers may be harbouring dreams of accessible and reliable safe water source, he is having unpleasant visions of a nightmare – a logistical nightmare.
That was in June 2009.
Eighteen months after that first close encounter with how residents from the Subanen tribe of the last-mile village in the town of Roxas lived, after numerous failed attempts to haul in and deliver construction materials in the first three months of project implementation, after a protracted six-month delivery of gravel and sand and steel, after at least three memorable incidents of delivery dump trucks not being able to go back down after a delivery (either because the mountainside had become impassable due to a recent landslide, or because the vehicle had broken down after too much exertion going up) or of near-capsized delivery vehicles, and after so many times of hissing under one’s breath and thinking "What have I gotten myself into," a concrete reservoir, measuring eight cubic meters, now proudly stands some 600 meters above sea level in Brgy. Panampalay. Nearly two kilometers of high-density polyethylene SDR 13.5 pipes convey the cool spring water from the reservoir down to the eight communal taps that had been scattered all over the village. Two-hundred forty households or 1,440 individuals – who until then had lived all their lives having to scurry to the village’s numerous low-pressure low-lying intermittent springs to fetch a jug of water which took at least an hour to fill – now enjoy the benefits of a reliable, convenient, and safe drinking water source.
The Alliance for Mindanao and Multi-regional Renewable/Rural Energy Development-Phase III (AMORE 3) Program and project partner, the Rotary Club of Dipolog, could have easily picked another community beneficiary; 64 percent of households in the town of Roxas, or 68 percent of all households in the entire province of Zamboanga del Norte, after all, are still without access to safe water. But as is always the case in development work, the challenge is to go beyond one’s comfort zone so that those not as fortunate may experience some of the conveniences – and necessities – that one often takes for granted.
"The community members’ profuse gratitude, and the sight of women and children going about their daily tasks by the water tap stand, have made it all worth it," Julius says.
Falling under the broader USAID-Rotary International Water Alliance Program, the Panampalay safe water project has not only brought safe, potable water from the mountain source down to the communities at least 100 meters below through the construction of a water system, but educates community members on proper sanitation and hygiene as well.
The USAID, through its projects – one of which is the AMORE Program – and the Rotary Foundation, through its competitive Hunger, Health and Humanity (3-H) Grants program, has provided over a million dollar grant funding for five water and sanitation projects to local Rotary Clubs and Districts. The Philippines is one of the three pilot countries for the USAID-RI Water Alliance, the others being Ghana and the Dominican Republic.
The Rotary Club of Dipolog and AMORE Program implemented a similar safe water project in Brgy. San Antonio in the town of Sergio Osme?a. AMORE. Jan 2011