Monday, July 30, 2007

DORA's Paper -3

Watershed Rehabilitation with a Community-Based Focus: The Davao City Water District Experience
Rodora Gamboa
July 26-27, 2007, WaterFront Insular Hotel
delivered during 2nd National Convention of the Water Environment Association of the Philippines (WEAP)


It has been more than a decade since davao city water district first embarked on a rather ambitious undertaking that integrated its concerns for the environment alongside its agenda of providing economic opportunities for poor communities as well as its social responsibility to help improve the well-being of those in the uplands.

With this presentation, we hope to demonstrate how DCWD was able to weave these concerns into its watershed rehabilitation project using a participatory approach within a community-based setting.

ON the verdant slopes of the mt. apo natural park quietly nestle TWO of davao city's most important water resources. a visit during a clear day WILL TREAT YOU TO a breathtaking vista of rolling hills and ridges swaddled with dense vegetation as you set foot on their great expanse.

THE LUSH AREAS, WHICH HAVE A COMBINED LAND USE COVER OF ABOUT 39,210 HECTARES, ARE HOME to numerous species of flora and fauna. THEIR OLD-GROWTH FORESTS OFFER SHADE AND SHELTER TO AN ESTIMATED 460,899 PERSONS OR 33 PERCENT OF THE CITY'S POPULATION, WHICH includes CEBUANOS, BOHOLANOS, ILONGGOS, ILOCANOS, AND indigeneous FILIPINOS LIKE THE BagoboS, KalaganS, TausogS, TagabawaS, MaranaoS and ManoboS.

This is THE mt. talomo-LIPADAS watershed, a veritable lifeline that provides water to more than 147,000 households in davao city. LOCATED about 20 kilometers away from the poblacion, it is a dependable resource that benefits both the city's upland and lowland dwellers. AROUND 53 VILLAGES OR BARANGAYS, REPRESENTING 29 percent of the city's 182 barangays, are found inside the watershed.

FOR many years now, THe rehabilitation of this WATERSHED HAS BEEN A SHOWCASE OF THE IMPACT OF PARTICIPATORY DEVELOPMENT on the lives and livelihood of those in the highlands. with the assistance of DCWD, PEOPLE IN THREE UPLAND COMMUNITIES INSIDE the watershed have been working together to rehabilitate a DENUDED PORTION OF THIS VERY CRITICAL WATER RESOURCE. more importantly, the project has helped emplower communities through the creation of robust people's organizations that later on became cooperatives.

AS WE ALL KNOW, Watersheds LIKE TALOMO-LIPADAS are natural drainage areas that hold and store runoff water before it flows to rivers and other bodies of water. THEY portray a crucial role in ensuring the availability of abundant, potable water that utilities supply to communities in different parts of the country.

Because of deforestation, however, many watersheds IN THE PHILIPPINES have been proclaimed by presidential edicts as watershed forest reserves.

To protect them from further harm, philippine congress passed Republic Act 7586 otherwise known as the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992. the law provided that all areas declared as watershed forest reserves may not be destroyed, exploited or opened for settlement. Despite its passage, there has been, in general, little mitigation in the process of environmental decay.

In the early 1990s, a water crisis brought about BY global climatic changes such as the el niÑo phenomenon threatened to affect many parts of the PHILIPPINES. The grim scenario led the government to pursue more initiatives that would protect the remaining watersheds.

FOR ITS PART, the Philippine Association of Water Districts WENT INTO partnership with the Local Water Utilities Administration and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in launching Project Evergreen, which was designed to alleviate forest denudation. several utilities soon embarked on their own watershed rehabilitation projects.

One of them was Davao City Water District. Formed on November 3, 1973 pursuant to the provisions of Presidential Decree 198 or the Provincial Water Utilities Act of 1973, DCWD originally functioned as a quasi-public corporation. Starting 1992, however, it operated as a full-pledge government utility by virtue of a Supreme Court decision.

Considered as the Philippines' largest water utility outside Metro Manila, DCWD runs and maintains a water system that distributes and supplies water coming from forty-eight (48) pump wells and two (2) surface water sources that serve 155,238 active service connections found in 104 barangays, which represent 57.14 percent of the city's 182 barangays. Most of the water (98 percent) that DCWD supplies to some 776,190 customers, which represent 55.58 percent of the city's total population, comes from underground sources.

Davao City is blessed with abundant ground and surface water resources. In recent years, HOWEVER, deforestation, unregulated water extraction, unauthorized agricultural conversion, poor waste management and squatting have all conspired to hasten the degradation of these water resources, particularly the mt. talomo-lipadas watershed, which is renowned for its biodiversity.

In light of this, DCWD vowed to protect one of davao's primary water resources, a posture that is not only in keeping with its corporate social responsibility but also an exercise of one of its legal rights.

soon, IT came up WITH an ambitious plan to rehabilitate a critically endangered area within the Mt. Talomo-Lipadas Watershed. the area covered by the community-based project lies inside the Mt. Apo Natural Park, which is considered the headwater of the Lipadas River.

The project sought to attain the following objectives:

Rehabilitate 530 hectares of open denuded land;

Minimize environmental degradation through soil and water conservation measures;

Establish basic infrastructures;

Facilitate the creation of sectoral organizations in the project sites;

Establish a relevant and effective educational program; and

Establish the Ecology and Capital Build-up funds for the sustainability of economic endeavors;

Right from the start, dcwd knew that the people's participation WAS very critical in the rehabilitative effort. Thus, IT adopted community participation as its core strategy to prepare the people in the uplands for the challenging tasks that lay ahead.

SITE SELECTION. selectiNG THE communities that would BECOME dcwd's partners was no easy task. since funds for the project were quite limited, the utility needed to come up with a set of criteria for prioritizing the project sites. these are as follows:

People in the barangays have little or no objection/resistance to the project or to DCWD;

An influential group or person has expressed initial support for the undertaking;

There are few or no ongoing development projects in the upland areas; and

No serious peace and order problems are obtaining in the villages.

FINALLY, DCWD identified three upland communities to be the site of its community-based watershed rehabilitation project. they include the barangays of tungkalan, daliaon plantation and manuel guianga.

PRE-IMPLEMENTATION. dcwd found the collection of baseline data about the communities the most critical activity during the pre-implementation stage.

Information from the said survey, which was completed in 1994, was later used in the preparation of community profiles, development and management plans and strategies, decision-making, monitoring and evaluation, process documentation, and problem identification and solving.

COMMUNITY ENTRY, IMMERSION AND INTEGRATION. because of unpleasant past experiences, upland villagers generally treated government agencies with distrust. hence, It was necessary that an outsider whom the people can trust be sent to immerse and study the three barangays.

To gain entry into the areas, DCWD sought the assistance of the Community Organizing-Davao Experience (CODE) Foundation, one of the more established NGOs operating in Davao City. CODE then dispatched a community organizer (CO) to the sites.

Aside from studying and gathering data, the CO also acted as an intermediary between the communities and DCWD. He stayed and worked with the villagers until they felt that assistance on a daily basis was no longer needed.

Formation of Core Groups. CREATING the core group was an equally crucial phase in community organizing as this body was the basic building block for a people's organization. Upon the CO's departure from the barangay, DCWD expected this group to take over the responsibilities that he will leave behind.

In choosing the members who will compose the core group, the CO considered those who have displayed leadership potentials and have extensive interpersonal relations with other community members. He also selected those who are well respected by the villagers, are open-minded and can clearly verbalize the community's problems and aspirations.

CONDUCT OF CAPABILITY-BUILDING PROGRAMS. dcwd, through the CO, conducted information, education and communication (IEC) activities to keep people updated on the developments relative to the project.

The utility also organized an exposure trip and conducted a number of seminars for them.

Mobilization and networking. Most of the problems facing their respective barangays required the villagers to go beyond the narrow confines of their communities to search for lasting solutions and to forge strategic alliances with other organizations with similar interests who can help boost their efforts at community development. thus, the CO exposed them to mobilization and networking activities to STRENGTHEN their confidence and readiness to take action on whatever problems they encounter.

Formation of people's organizations. after the prerequisites were done, the formation of the three people's organizations was formalized. Thus, the Lipadas Watershed Tungkalan Association (LIPWATA), the Daliaon Plantation Lipadas Watershed Association (DAPLIWATA) and the Sarro Lipadas Watershed People's Organization (SALIWAPO) came into being.

Conversion to cooperatives. In less than five years after their creation, the POs were registered as cooperative enterprises.

As cooperatives, they engaged in money lending, charging the loans with minimal monthly interest.

They also entered into service contracts with DCWD wherein it was stipulated that the fruit-bearing trees planted in the project areas will be owned by the occupants after five years. with this, the utility hopes that the people's desire in keeping the watershed areas protected from encroachment and degradation would be sustained.

Establishment of nurseries/plantations. A year after the project took off, nurseries and plantations were established and managed by caretakers paid by the utility. PO members participated actively in soil gathering and polybagging, establishment of seedbed, sowing of seeds, and installation of nets and dried leaves that served as partial shades of the seedlings.

Monitoring and evaluation. these mechanisms were created to address two key concerns: first, whether or not the project is proceeding as scheduled/planned; and second, whether or not the targets/outputs in terms of number of hectares replanted/rehabilitated, seedlings distributed, community meetings conducted, among others, are being met.

Several valuable gains in the form of lessons and insights can be derived from the project. these may be summed up as follows:

Put premium on people development and empowerment. DCWD saw to it that the financial needs of the communities are addressed first and foremost.

Engaging their services as partners in the planting, replanting and maintenance of trees enabled the utility TO help them financially by compensating their efforts.

Through the project, the grassroots were empowered to do something about their plight, which eventually led to the formation of cooperatives.

Involve community members every step of the way. this meant giving them priority and listening to what they have to say. Their opinions on how the project should proceed must be respected and, if possible, woven into the decision-making process out of genuine concern for their well-being and not mere lip service.

Know and respect the community's social beliefs, customs and traditions. Understanding the way the decision-making structures of community members OPERATE has enabled the utility's project implementers better handle certain situations, ESPECIALLY IN THE CASE OF INDIGENEOUS PEOPLES. Knowledge of the socio-cultural, economic and political conditions of people affected by the project has gone a long way in helping dcwd SUCCESSFULLY MANAGE THE PROJECT.

Build and sustain a climate of trust, fairness and understanding among the stakeholders. To foster goodwill and sustain community interest, involvement and commitment throughout THE WHOLE process, the utility sent its people on a periodic basis to sit and discuss relevant issues, concerns and possible solutions with the stakeholders. These visits, which served as bridges of interpersonal trust and confidence, helped the parties involved voice their perceptions, sentiments and opinions and arrive at a consensus.

Employ various methods to encourage and maintain community participation. There are several techniques that can BE utilizeD to encourage and sustain community participation. Each technique has its pros and cons. EFFECTIVE COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION MEANS EMPLOYING THESE BASED ON CERTAIN SITUATIONS.

To sustain the REHABILITATION project's gains, dcwd LAUNCHED the "Adopt-a-Site" Project, WHICH sought to:

Ensure continuity and sustainability of the watershed rehabilitation project;

Encourage direct and/or indirect involvement of government agencies, NGOs, private corporations, civil society and individuals in managing and developing watershed protection and conservation projects; and

Provide a venue for interested individuals taking their family and friends to an "eco-camp" in the area and enjoy nature through the eco-friendly "mountain trek".

IN SUMMARY, DCWD'S EXPERIENCE HAS SHOWN THAT AN ENTITY WANTING TO PURSUE A COMMUNITY-BASED WATERSHED REHABILItATION PROJECT MUST BE prepared TO GO THROUGH A PAINSTAKINGLY COMPLICATED BUT REWARDING PROCESS THAT INVOLVES THE FOLLOWING:

SITE SELECTION BASED ON A SOUND PRIORITIZATION CRITERIA;

PRE-IMPLEMENTATION ACTIVITIES INCLUDING ESTABLISHMENT OF BASELINE DATA ;

COMMUNITY ENTRY, IMMERSION AND INTEGRATION;

FORMATION OF CORE GROUPS;

CONDUCT OF CAPABILITY-BUILDING PROGRAMS;

MOBILIZATION AND NETWORKING of the project communities;

FORMATION OF PEOPLE'S ORGANIZATIONS;

CONVERSION OF THESE poS TO COOPERATIVES;

ESTABLISHMENT OF NURSERIES AND PLANTATIONS; AND

PERIODIC MONITORING AND EVALUATION AT THE COMMUNITY LEVEL.

IN RETURN, such experience yields SEVERAL VALUABLE LESSONS AND INSIGHTS. hence, it can now be told that in a watershed rehabilitation project it is IMPORTANT TO:

PUT PREMIUM ON PEOPLE DEVELOPMENT AND EMPOWERMENT;

INVOLVE COMMUNITY MEMBERS EVERY STEP OF THE WAY;

KNOW AND RESPECT THE COMMUNITY'S SOCIAL BELIEFS, CUSTOMS AND TRADITIONS;

BUILD AND SUSTAIN A CLIMATE OF TRUST, FAIRNESS AND UNDERSTANDING AMONG THE STAKEHOLDERS; AND

EMPLOY VARIOUS METHODS TO ENCOURAGE AND MAINTAIN COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION.

Community participation as a flexible approach to local development has, to a great extent, enabled the utility to realize that it can also become a "big brother", a social reformer, a change agent at the community level by supporting and allowing ordinary villagers being affected by its undertakings to identify their problems, propose and implement solutions and monitor and evaluate the outcomes of those solutions.

In closing, I WOULD LIKE TO THANK THE PEOPLE BEHIND THE WATER ENVIRONMENT ASSOCIATION OF THE PHILIPPINES FOR MAKING US A PART OF THIS EVENTFUL GATHERING.

AND FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT OUR WATERSHED REHABILITATION PROJECT, WE ARE MORE THAN WILLING TO SHARE OUR EXPERIENCES WITH YOU. YOU MAY CONTACT US THROUGH THE INFORMATION BEING FLASHED ON THE SCREEN.

GOOD DAY TO EVERYONE!

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