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Benguet water project benefits 5 barangays and saves trees

KAPANGAN, Benguet—A package of low-cost, community-managed potable water supply, sanitation and hygiene project in this chiefly agricultural town is proving to be a big help to hundreds of farmers and their families, who now enjoy clean, drinking water and the benefit of a clean and green, renewable energy.

Also called CPWASH, the project only cost proponents a combined amount of P920,000, but has benefited members of five community-based organizations belonging to the Kapangan Agrarian Reform Community (ARC), comprised of close to 4,185 agrarian-reform beneficiaries (ARBs) as members.

Since the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) in 1988, the DAR Kapangan Municipal Office had distributed a total of 3,390 hectares to agrarian reform beneficiaries, with a balance of about 185 hectares.

CPWASH was jointly implemented last year by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), the local government unit of Kapangan, Benguet, the Philippine Center for Water Sanitation (PCWS) and farmers in five of the 15 “waterless” barangays:  Balakbak, Tabaao, Pudong, Sagubo and Pongayan.

The bulk of the project cost was shouldered by the local government unit of Kapangan, which chipped in P600,000; P250,000 came from the Priority Development Assistance Fund of Rep. Ronald Cosalan of Benguet; P50,000 from contributions of project beneficiaries; and the DAR with P20,000 in the form of supplies and materials, and other miscellaneous expenses.

The project involves the construction of a combination of iron removal filter, water tank, spring box, biogas digester and bio-sand filters, primarily to address the water needs of people, and apply biogas technology to complement a backyard swine raising livelihood project in certain areas.

A total of 54 facilities were constructed under the project, which also served as on-the-job training for 23 fabricator-trainees or para-engineers who are now service providers for CPWASH projects in other areas.

The spring box and water tank harnesses spring water from source.  The water is then distributed to communities where people will fetch them with ease and for now, since the project was completed, at no cost to residents, because the CPWASH facilities are being maintained by community-based organizations, with subsidy from the Kapangan-LGU.

Another major component of the project—the biogas digester—allows farmers to produce biogas that complements the swine-raising livelihood project in selected areas.

The digester produces methane, enough to cook food for a number of households, thereby effectively reducing their dependence on fuel wood.  This, in effect, promises to save hundreds of trees in the forest.

The town of Kapangan, a fourth-class municipality with a total land area of 14,164 hectares, is one of the highly elevated areas in the province.

All of its 15 barangays and its more than 18,000 people have no access to clean drinking water until last year when the project was finally completed, providing clean, drinking water to the five pilot barangays.

It is a major stumbling block to the achievement of the country’s Millennium Development Goals—to cut by half the number of people with no access to water and sanitation by the end of 2015, which is less than two years from now.

One of the 15 towns in Benguet, a major vegetable-producing province in Luzon, Kapangan is said to be the poorest, but with vast potential to contribute to the so-called vegetable bowl in Luzon.

Kapangan is known to produce sayote, beans, broccoli and cucumber are some its major agricultural products.

Through the CARP, farmers were awarded with lands and various support services such as farm-to-market road and communal irrigation system, to help improve farmers’ lives.

Despite having land of their own, farmers here are still confronted with a major lingering problem—lack of water source for irrigation and for household use.

Of the 5,000 hectares devoted to food production in Kapangan, only 2,000 hectares are actually irrigated, and all 15 barangays have no access to potable water, Kapangan Municipal Agrarian Reform Officer Jane Toribio said.

As such, rice production is limited during the rainy season, and vegetable during the summer, limiting the town’s capacity for economic growth and development.

Through the project, Toribio said the DAR and its project partners were able to provide clean drinking water to five barangays using low-cost construction materials such as ferro-cement to build CPWASH facilities, reducing project cost by 60 percent to 85 percent.

“Water is our primary problem in Kapangan.  Our people rely on rain for our crop and spring water for drinking.  We only have one cropping season because rivers go dry during summer,” Kapangan Mayor Roberto Canuto said.

The Kapangan LGU, he said, with its annual budget of P58 million, has limited financial capacity to implement the much-needed infrastructure development.  He said that more farm-to-market roads that will allow farmers to bring their products to training centers, faster, safer and cheaper, are still needed.

The mayor said he intends to pour in more funds to replicate the CPWASH project in the rest of the municipality, to address the water needs of the people.

But as a long-term plan, he said he is eyeing the establishment of a water district that will fully address the people’s water problem.

For now, he vowed to strengthen its partnership with various agencies of the government, particularly the DAR, to help uplift the lives of the people.

“As they say, water is life that’s why our goal is to identify water source and improve water and sanitation,” he said.

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