A lot of households in the countryside, especially those of farmers, were heavily affected by the lack of rains due to the El Niño phenomenon that has beset many parts of the country since last year, compounding the problem of irrigation for farmers.
One of those who have suffered from the climate anomaly is Betty Panapit who used to trek four kilometers just to get water from the steep slope of Sitio Pulang Lupa in Barangay Batong Labang, a coarse mountainside community near the city of Ilagan, Isabela.
With the help of World Wide Fund for nature (WWF) in collaboration with Sun Life Foundation together with the US Embassy Manila and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Panapit, along with the members of her community, no longer need to painstakingly walk long hours just to get water because of the five concrete spring box water systems that were constructed to help provide fresh, potable water to upland farming communities with the help of Abuan Integrated Watershed Management.
Spring box systems are water containers built atop crannies where water flows out naturally. Over time, the boxes will collect water while preventing twigs and plants from getting in. Water is then filtered and channeled down to communities, providing potable water that can be used for household activities and irrigation for farming. The spring boxes will be of big help in providing potable water that will be readily available for families that may need it especially since they don’t have to trek long distances just for water.
“Malaking tulong po talaga ito para sa amin, lalo na sa panahon ng El Niño at tagtuyot (this is really a big help for us, especially at this time when we are suffering from El Niño),” she says.
With the help of these spring box water systems, Panapit and many others can have a better life.
USAID sponsored the preparation of a water resource inventory, demographic survey, environmental impact review, and the construction supervision and management while Sun Life Foundation financed it by providing cement and steel bars. Residents also did their part by providing gravel and sand, plus their time and labor to build the spring boxes.
To add to the spring boxes, Sun Life Foundation also planted 15,169 mango, citrus and cacao seedlings for the area’s agro forestry requirements. This will enable crops and trees to coexist in an environment that will provide water recharge, minimize erosion and increase land productivity. This is an attempt to restore Isabela’s Abuan watershed – a once-lush forest which has been converted to corn and rice farming.
Agro forestry is the managing of lands involving the growing of trees while surrounding the crops. This practice has improved the 69.45 hectares of desolate grassland since 2012. “I now have 180 new mango and 200 Satsuma citrus trees, which can help feed my family for years to come,” says project beneficiary Arsenio Cacliong.
This way of reforestation allows the balancing of trees, shrubs and crops that will create more sustainable plots. Since 2009, WWF, along with its partner institutions, have since helped 466 Isabela farmers plant 70,786 fruit-bearing trees that were chosen to provide incentives for farmers who need it.
Over 150 endemic animal species – from the symbolic Philippine eagle to the criticallyendangered Philippine crocodile, benefits from the vegetation. Its forest provides water for 35,570 hectares of rice fields and corn plots in the city of Ilagan in Isabela.
“Sun Life Foundation champions sustainable solutions in all the advocacies we support. This project is one such initiative,” says Sun Life Foundation chairman of the board Riza Mantaring. “We are proud to be WWF-Philippines’ partner and we will continue to support projects that will offer a brighter life to Filipinos for generations to come.”
USAID is working with the stakeholders to improve the adaptability of watersheds, farmlands, and other economic sectors in the Abuan Watershed to climate change threats. The Abuan Integrated Watershed Management Project pilots the Department of Science and Technology’s smarter agriculture program by refining the capacity of farmers in adapting to climate change. To date, this USAID-supported grant has increased the capacity of nearly 7,000 stakeholders to adapt to the impacts of climate change.