Poor people helping the poor make a Eco-village
March 12, 2012 · By Emmanuel Drewery
In Sitio Nato, San Juan district, Botolan, Zambales a group of refugees whose village was washed away by the floods of the typhoons are forming a self- sustainable community after living in a refugee camp for almost three years. The new community is establishing itself and lifting itself from impoverished living ,dependency on handouts and part-time jobs to a organized community on their own newly assigned land plots given by a poor upland indigenous community as poor as themselves. Trocaire, an Irish development agency is a donor for the housing being constructed in the community.
In the new hilly land are Nipa huts, made of light bamboo and grass are the present small temporary homes for 300 families.More permanent small houses and a school with be constructed.The school as a beginning will have two rooms being funded by Mr.and Mrs Justin and Debbie Uy of Profood,Cebu. Preda Foundation is contributing a counterpart fund and providing the coordination and training with the community leaders for their empowerment and full participation and implementation of the project.
Little children cant walk 5 kilometers to school. So Profood will provide the school building materials. Local people in the Aeta community of Indigenous people will be doing the construction work. Preda will provide the food and support for the volunteer construction workers members of the community. They will have a sake and a pride in building their own school and to see the children attend and get the best out of it. It will be as big as the funds allow at present with a Preda counterpart. The school will be the first community infrastructure project. It is greatly needed The area is remote ,there is no transportation, the little children cannot walk five to eight kilometers every day and education is the only way to empowerment, and a way out of poverty.
Additional rooms and toilets will be added in the future as funds become available. The people /parents will have a stakeholders interest and it will not be a handout project but have full community participation. Preda with the community representatives will make an application to the Department of Education to provide learning materials and a teacher.
A primer on the Eco-Village project
1. When did the 300 families loose their homes ?
It was on September 2009 during the strong typhoon Ondoy followed by another strong typhoon Pepeng that also caused severe flooding The protective dike along the Bucao River, Near Botolan, Zambales, a main river channel from Mt. Pinatubo down to West Philippine Sea, was destroyed by large volume of water mixed with lahar.
Botolan town, Zambales , was flooded affecting 9 Barangays (districts) with more than 5,000 people displaced many Aeta indigenous people were affected who were residing in Barangays (disricts) San Miguel, Paudpod and Baton-lapoc. Some of these are the people who are now resettled in the Sitio Nato San Juan area where the houses are under construction and the school will be built in Sitio Nato, San Juan,Botolan,Zambales
2. How many people live in this new community, Eco-village ?
To date, based from the membership record there are 300 families now already living in the area.Aboput 1200 people in all. Before the destruction of the former village by the typhoon and floods most of them had small farms and a good living from gathering fruits and planting vegetables. They lived in their native houses or nipa huts,( bamboo and grass constructed shelters they last only 2 years and are blown away in a typhoon) some had stronger houses but the typhoons and the floods destroyed all.
3. Where did they live after the typhoon?
After the typhoon, they temporarily evacuated and lived in different schools converted to refugee centers, in Botolan town .There is a big building in the area ,Like a warehouse called “A Cube” which was formerly used by the newly trained Police Force. UNICEF also provided more or less 300 units of canvas tents rounded in shape. Most of them also built their own temporary nipa huts along the Zambales-Tarlac Road while the provincial and municipal government also built temporary shelters to use as community toilets and a school along the roadside as there was no land available .
3.1 When did the resettlement project get started? – Just after the disaster, PREDA exerted efforts to find possible donors to extend assistance for the Aeta flood victims in terms of immediate relief distribution and a possible permanent settlement for the flood victims. On 2010, PREDA provided its counterpart funds form Fair Trade sales and was able to get co-funding from Trocaire ,the Development Relief agency funded by the Irish church. Immediately PREDA looked for available land on where to resettle the people build the housing with them to end their prolonged refugee status and help them form a community once again. There were land problems as always as powerful people intervened to make ownership claims on the public land.
For example the first effort to get land for the refugees, was when the community members were looking for a land area . Preda met with a farmers organization, named BOFASS organized by the Parish of Botolan and made an agreement that they will provide around 10 hectares for the housing and resettlement project for the refugees. While processing the land documents through meetings with a Church leader in charge of the group including the farmer organization key leaders, it was found out there is a problem on the legality issue of the land. The ownership was not clear.Many people were making claims on it The effort,after one year of work, to get that land was abandoned.
With PREDA’s continuous effort of searching available land, a member of an Aeta organization called “PAPAHT” of Sitio Nato, Brgy. San Juan, Botolan who happened to be one of beneficiaries from our mango tree planting project offered to share a part of their land to the refugees . The land is hilly and is now sadly deforested by the powerful logging families and then abandoned and cogun grass and a few trees is all that grows there. The land was awarded by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) last March 14, 2011 to the people which has an area of 209 hectares under Community Based Forestry Management (CBFM) program.
4. When did the refugees get land?
Early in 20l1 a series of consultation meetings were conducted between the Local Government of Botolan headed by the Mayor and concerned government agencies., the People already living in this area and the leaders of the refugees . The deal was made that the existing community on the hills of Sito Nato,San Juan would willingly share farm and housing lots with the refugee families . And so the resettlement was stated and the new families moved into the area over a year ago and made nipa huts as temporary shelters like the existing members of settlers there already.
4.1 After gathering of clear legal documents, the leaders assisted by Preda staff lobbied with the mayor of Botolan and got the government to send a bulldozer to make a access road and to provide piping for the installation of water system ,this was then done and the water was piped half-way to the village center. It wil be continued and provide water for the growing of food and sanitation. . After the rainy season, the community members also worked and contributed in fixing the road so that the construction material could reach could reach the site. However all has to be hand carried up the steep hill to the building sites . By then, construction of 5 housing units started last December 2011 together with PREDA volunteers and two more have already begun. The school construction wil start soon.
5. How many houses will be built?
The amount of the fund is only for 20 units of houses will be built for selected bona fide beneficiaries which was selected from a series of screening with the involvement of Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office (MSWDO), Red Cross and the organization.
6. How many people will live in the new village?
At present, the organization who manage the area already have 300 families each family average fo 4 people of a total of 1200 people in all will live there. There were still more families who are interested to get an area (lot) in that location considering the danger of flooding that will possibly destroy the other lowland villages during rainy season. At the moment, people consider the area as a safe place and a chance to reforest and develop it.
7. What will they earn their living from?
They are subsistence farmers ,growing vegetable, keeping chickens , catching small fish in the streams and river where it is possible . Some have sons and daughters working in the nearby towns .They who have food share with those who do not. Preda provides additional rice to help the construction workers of the school and houses until they become more independent. They are also gather wild bananas, mangos, and other root crops in season from the higher mountains. At the moment, PREDA is providing mango tree saplings and banana plants and other inputs for greater sustainability as a long term source of income and as well as to develop their land. Pineapple heads were given by the Department of agriculture .
8. Other help for there survival?
Seeds and plants for cash crops are provided so that the family will have food supplies and sell their excess to the market as an additional income. Some are also hired as farm laborers by the nearby communities specially in the lowland during land preparation, planting and harvesting. Some of them gather resources from the mountains such as cogon grass, buho (bamboo) and other wild crops to sell in the market. The also build nipa huts for other families .
9. Will there be a school?
The community leaders already included it as part of a whole development plan as a newly established community. There will be also a community “plaza” (open space) for gatherings Profood will provide materials for two rooms and toilets for the school. The people wil do their part with labor. and carrying the sand form the river.level the area the area they need to flatten the area before any construction will start. We will ask the gov.to send a bulldozer to prepare the site. If they dont it wil have to be done by hand. At the same time a wider road going up the hillside will be made.
10. What’s about water and electricity?
Installation of water pipes is on going which was provided by the Local Government of Botolan. This is coming from a stream higher up the mountain . The pipes are laid already and have reached half way from the water source going to the residential houses.This has to be continued.A water tank has to be constructed.
The nearest electric post from a privately owned chicken farm is about 1.5 kilometers away. The plan is to seek assistance with the electric company (ZAMECO) to assess/evaluate the area if it is possible for them to provide post and cables leading to the site to supply electricity. That will cost about 500,000 pesos ( approx. Euro 9000)
11. What are they actually living from?
if you mean what food do they eat this is answered above .Rice and vegetables ,and chickens on the upper north side of the mountain there are more vegetable plots ,because there is water up there . when the water pipes are extended to the new housing area then the people wil have more plots to grow food.
12. Is this a pure PREDA-project or are other organizations involved?
PREDA initiated this project as an “Aeta Ecological Village” which is unique from other resettlement area provided by the government. To prevent them being forced into a small area like a tenement or squatter camp or to remain displaced. We listened to them and they asked for help to live their natural way and be self- sufficient .In the refugees settlement are they are not able to work or grow food and are dependent on hand outs.
Trocaire donates the 20 houses. Other cooperating agencies are the Local Government of Botolan headed by the Municipal Mayor, the Provincial Government through Provincial Engineering Office by providing equipment, fuel and technical advise and Gawad Kalinga ( a low cost housing charity) by providing volunteers once a month to help the house construction . Trocaire, an Irish development agency is a donor for the housing being constructed in the community.
The concept is to provide a permanent home for the beneficiaries and as well as a sustainable source of income. We were able to get support from Trocaire of Ireland who provided funds for the housing materials. PREDA provides food for work as counterpart fund for the workers/beneficiaries. Preda gives organizing ability and skills ,lobbying and trains the leaders in negotiating training so they are empowered to dialogue with the government officials and get help by themselves. They have succeeded greatly so far.
Preda will also work to provide a rolling medical team and train the village health worker to give basic medical assistance and alert the medical team when members of he community are soon to give birth.This to prevent any deaths during childbirth a midwife will be provided or medical assistance as needed. The Medical team will visit on a regular schedule and the volunteer doctors will follow to make the examinations and give the medications and any further medical interventions necessary.The Preda nursing team will then implement the doctors recommendations for the patients .
The building of the school will be a big event for the people, and the continuation of the improved housing will establish a safe and secure housing and no danger of floods or typhoons. Those still living in Nipa huts can shelter in the school and the solid hollow block houses during typhoons.The community is building itself ,restoring the environment, replanting the trees and all they need is the support and help of generous donors, neighbors and friends.
SEE MORE: AETA Eco-Village Development Photos