Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Hearing the Sound of Clean Water Delivery to Anangue


We climbed into the back of the Suzuki four wheel and opened the windows for air conditioning. Sweat was already dripping down my back after walking out of shade of AIDFI’s workshop and cafĂ©. Auki and Liloy were taking Michael, my husband and me to the village of Anangue, about 20 kilometers away, towards the center of Negros Island on the shoulder of Mt. Mandalagan. Liloy, our driver and community organizer for the Anangue sitio ram pump project, that we were on our way to visit, picked his way carefully along on a rock rutted road, while we bounced and jarred our teeth. Once the “road” played out, we climbed out and started walking up a narrow rut track to Anangue. We came to a house set on the hill above the rut track and stopped for a chat. One man was chopping a red log with his machete attempting to spit it. I stared aghast thinking he would surely chop off his foot. Several other people stood around offering supervisory suggestions and joking with Auki and Liloy. The four of us moved on up the hill and came to a man loading up vegetables for market on a simple homemade wooden cart pulled by a carabao, the Filipino water buffalo beast of burden. A farm to market truck would be coming tomorrow where the road ended. The cart was made of split wood, long and narrow to fit along the rutted track we walked up. The rims of wood disc wheels were covered in old tire rubber strips. Further up we came upon children who would stick their head up and through the bamboo fencing around house yards, curious of the strangers walking in their village. Auki and Liloy greeted them in Ilocano, the local language.

The first household had complained that the water was not reaching their stand pipe, only a trickle by 9:00 in the morning. Auki and Liloy suspected that someone was diverting water intended for all 45 households, so we walked along looking to see where that might be happening. Liloy was going to need to call a water committee meeting to go over the water policy again, to make sure that all in the village got their share of water. Each household pays 20 pesos a month for a quantity of water.

Sweaty young men stripped to their waists, their shirts tied onto their heads for sun protection, slashed sugar cane for the harvest. One young man stopped to chat, Auki and Liloy joking easily with him. I stared at the young skinny farmer marveling at how strong he must be to slash the cane with his machete and stack the stalks all day.

Small vegetable plots were planted in the cleared side yards of houses, and a few houses had big leafy shady arbors surrounding their houses. Only the pale green squash hanging down gave away that the arbors weren’t grapes. We passed another wooden cart piled high with vegetable for market. The picture was getting clearer of how the water was being used.

At the top of a steep slope, we looked down into a narrow canyon of green and heard the rhythmic metallic clank, clank, clank of the ram pump below. Auki smiled; that sound was music to his ears. I followed the men down the steep hill, slipping occasionally, but catching myself on palm fronds. At the bottom a beautiful stream flowed from an abundant spring down the canyon. The ram pump system diverted some of the flow in a pipe set up for a drop to two blue ram pumps that raised 32,000 liters a day of the precious water up hill 90 meters to a tank for distribution to the community stand pipes. All was functioning well, so Auki and Liloy knew that the supply of water was not the problem down the way. Auki explained that when Green Empowerment staff Jason Selwitz and Northwestern University students arrived next June, they would be helping to install more ram pumps in the same location to serve Tres Hermanos, another village above on the hillside.

As I climbed back up the canyon wall, using my hands to pull me up the next step, I mused how different life in the village for the children and women must be without having to make this climb twice a day for water to drink and bathe.

Later, as we stood and listened to women chatting with Auki and Liloy, then visiting with Roger, the water committee secretary, over instant coffee in his house, we picked up that the greater number of vegetables that the farmers are now growing could be the source of less water making it to the last stand pipe. Roger talked about what was different from before without water, “…being able to raise pigs, and children being able to bathe before school.” The water committee is already talking about using some of their extra funds to buy piglets, rotating a starter stock for households to begin raising pigs, another source of protein and cash.

As we walked back by down the rutted track, we mused out loud about the surprising things we learn from people who tell us what is important about having clean water in their community. When the children had to walk down the canyon hill to collect water, it was too precious a commodity to bathe in before school. Now they can go to school clean, reducing the number of skin ailments. Auki talked about how Liloy would attend a community meeting next Monday so they could talk about scheduling water so all get their share. I am excited about the Northwestern student coming and learning from these hard working farmers and installing more ram pumps to deliver clean water to Tres Hermanos.

3 comments:

JJ said...

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Irene Vlach said...

What a contrast between your story and mine... Loved the description of Valentine's Day and the beginning of the year of the Tiger! Did you wear your red dress?

Margaret Florence said...

Francie -- I'm so glad that you can share your stories with me via this blog. I'd love to travel with you again but until then, I'll go along and try to learn the lessons by following your blog.

M