eastwind journals 61 – EARTH DAY TRILOGY

eastwind journals

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In celebration of Earth Day, the Earth Day Network Philippines, Inc. (EDNPI) is launching three articles, which highlights its Earth Day programs.
Article No. 1
A Magical Water System that Runs on Gravity
Ram Pump Part 1
Except for installation and first-time equipment costs, this magical water system called a Ram Pump, runs on sheer gravitational energy, no electricity, no fuel, no pollution, with minimal operational and maintenance cost. The system has very little moving parts. It yields cheap water in rural areas, and the target is logically the poor upland communities without access to water for household use and backyard gardening.


It is an ingenious and simple principle. Here is how it works. The set of photos below (courtesy of www.aidfi.org, or watch it on Youtube – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWqDurunnK8) shows the stages of bringing up water to higher ground using sheer hydraulic pressure.
(Photo 1) Not all places can have a ram pump. The physical situation of the stream or river is a requirement, having enough downstream force. The water must be clean enough for household use. To achieve this, the intake from the river must be higher than the pump system to force water into it. (Photos 2 and 3) The downstream force of the river or stream water is collected into a chamber, which closes a waste valve.


(Photos 4 and 5) When the waste valve closes, pressure builds up in the lower chamber, forcing a second vertical valve to open, which lets out water into an upper pressure chamber. (Photos 6 and 7) When pressure builds in the upper chamber, the vertical valve is closed, forcing the water through the delivery pipe to a water tank on the upper ground, then to a system of community faucets (Photo 8). While this is happening, pressure is reduced in the lower chamber, which opens the waste valve and again the process is repeated.


The impact of this simple magical technology on marginal communities is so awesome! It changes their lives and their lifestyles. Take for example a small community of 24 households of Aetas in Matalangao, Bagac in Bataan, target beneficiaries of Earth Day Network Philippines, Inc. (EDNPI) in its Agos (flow) Ram Pump Project. The Aetas do not have to go down to the river to wash their clothes. They do not have to bring up water for household use on a daily basis up a steep incline, which is extremely slippery during the rainy season. They can now bathe in the privacy of their homes, consume water at will for cooking, laundry, and cleaning. Before the arrival of Agos, they scrimped on water consumption to save on the effort to bring it up. Now, it is free flowing.


This translates into a cleaner more hygienic home, less prone to diseases. More important, the impact on food security is tremendous. All of a sudden, they can plant vegetables in nearby fields of the upper slopes even in the dry season, in other words, all year round. There is food self-reliance for a community with little capability to generate cash. Also, since children do not have to fetch water from the river below, they have more time for study and play.


Cocacola, which is a water consumer, believes so much in water as life’s eternal treasure, that it has decided to sponsor a nationwide program, adopting the Ram Pump system. Coke has sought the help of a green NGO, Earth Day Network Philippines Inc. (EDNPI), to proliferate the Ram Pump to marginal communities across the nation through the Agos project. EDNPI’s Agos is one of three key projects that will be highlighted in the upcoming Earth Day Celebrations scheduled for April 22, 2013.


Photo 1. Physical requirements.

Photo 2. Water enters the chamber.

Photo 3. Pressure closes waste valve.

Photo 4. Pressure builds up in lower chamber.

Photo 5. Vertical valve opens.

Photo 6. Pressure builds up in upper chamber.

Photo 7. Vertical valve closes, forcing water upward through the delivery pipe.

Photo 8. Lowered pressure opens side valve and the process is repeated.

Article No. 2
Raising Green Consciousness
Ram Pump Part 2


In view of the upcoming Earth Day celebrations on April 22, the goal of raising environmental awareness is once again in focus. This goal for green advocates, such as Earth Day Network Philippines Inc. (EDNPI), to inspire everyone, including marginal and tribal Filipino communities, has always been a great challenge.


The frustration over awareness-building efforts is due to many factors. For one, there can be gaps between teacher and students, social, intellectual and cultural gaps. Target audiences may not be motivated to listen or act because their preoccupation is to fill their empty stomachs. This communication problem is critical value formation essential to green advocacy. If a green project is related to the stomach, communication becomes easier, which is what happened.


Suddenly, EDNPI stumbles on a magic formula to solve the communication problem through one of its green projects, the Agos (flow) Ram Pump Project. The goal of Agos is not anything grand or ambitious. It simply aims to provide free flowing water to marginal communities, which will change their lives dramatically. The Ram Pump system requires no electricity, driven by sheer gravity. The project is so simple to implement, requiring little funds, that EDNPI will have constructed Ram Pumps at amazing speed in 41 communities nationwide by May this year, within 5 short months since it started in November 2011. At an average of 70 households per community, this translates into a total of 2,100 families or 15,500 persons serviced within less than a year. This is an amazing feat because we have been struggling for decades to provide water to the poor at such gargantuan costs, multi-million peso loans in infrastructure, and at such long gestation periods.


More than just economics is the more critical value formation for marginal communities, the green awareness they have to learn. Binggirl Clemente, project trustee, says that something awesome happened. The communities, from their own experience, gradually formed their own deep realization, as articulated by the Barangay Captain of Malalay in Cebu, “You know this water project is really great, but there is something even greater. You gave us not just water but also the gift of environmental awareness.”


Binggirl explains how environmental awareness was achieved so easily and so fast once the water project was in place. On their own, communities started realizing that the precious water was interconnected to their environment, to their lives. And the reward for them was awesome. All of a sudden, they had better lives, more food, better health. This beginning of a deeper and broader environmental consciousness came from the beneficiaries themselves. It was a gradual realization, a was wisdom from experience, not from theory from lectures.


The Agos project had a requirement for the community to first organize their own People’s Organization (PO) and have a legal name, then to attend a training seminar on solid waste management. The Ram Pump cannot be set up until they practice solid waste management. That was the carrot on the stick. As designed by EDNPI founder and green icon, the late Odette Alcantara, the seminar began with the basics of the “man-nature synergy”, namely, the primary elements – LAHAT (everything) – lupa (earth) – araw (sun) – hangin (air) – ako (I) – tubig (water) in that order. Their lives and their ways were tied up to everything in their surroundings and to all their everyday activities – keeping the river waters clean, having a proper solid waste management system. Man and Nature was inseperable and interconnected.


That was in theory. But it was not until they got the water, stopped polluting the river as source of water, planted trees to avoid erosion, recycled their waste, that they understood in practice this cosmic principle of the man-nature dialogue. That’s the difference. You can talk the whole day in a seminar and they fall asleep. But when you give them water, they are suddenly awakened to the magical idea that the green Earth has to be respected and nurtured if you want it to sustain you.


And the beauty of it all is – that green awareness is sustainable. It is forever. They will pass it on to their children as a modus vivendi, who will pass it on to the next generations to come. It becomes part of the culture forever. As mentioned earlier, the Agos project is sponsored by Cocacola.


So for students of Development Communications, the lesson is so simple that it is right in front of our noses. There are two ways of communicating – talk to them until your saliva dries up, or show them until their faces light up. In other words, there is theoretical wisdom which can be boring and there is experiential wisdom which is exciting. eastwindreplyctr@gmail.com


Article No. 3
“There’s a Better Way”
Paradigm shift in green advocacy


Presently, there are big gaps between the government and non-government sectors, which inhibit better governance and advocacy. They do not see eye to eye. One is accusing the other of misdeeds. They have somehow acquired the modus operandi of not talking to each other, and believe they can work on their own. This is true for the many issues of today, on environment, energy, agriculture, agrarian reform, defense, and so on


For non-government, advocacy becomes mostly exposing the corruption or inefficiency of government. For government, it is mostly defending themselves from accusations. Both are distracted from their true visions and goals. It becomes a state of war and the losers are the Filipino people.


Bert Guevara, Country Coordinator of Earth Day Network Philippines, Inc. (EDNPI) reveals that there is now an ongoing paradigm shift in green advocacy. Realizing the counter-productive environment of war, Bert says, “There is a better way”. EDNPI leads a host of NGOs shifting from war to cooperation, and achieving a more productive alliance of government and non-government sectors in plans and projects.


As advocated by the late Odette Alcantara, EDNPI founder, Bert says there are four key sectors for collaboration – Church/faith, business, government, and civil society, all serving the common Tao. Bert says, “The old way is mostly “kanya-kanya (to each his own). They don’t even talk to each other. They regard each other with suspicion. Kalimutan muna yung tirahan (forget criticisms for now). EDNPI’s mission is to fill the vacuum”.


Odette pioneered the paradigm shift in EDNPI reforestation efforts by establishing cooperation with the DENR, a former ‘arch-enemy’, which provided the seeds, LGUs, who became ‘co-advocates’, harnessing free labor from communities and schools, and the AFP, which provided logistics such as transports, and even aircraft for aerial seeding. The power of cooperation meant a massive successful reforestation effort. The end result was more goals achieved by all four sectors. Bert argues that these goals coincide, which all aim to serve the Filipino people. Institutional teamwork works wonders.


Bert sites the value of relationship-building in another EDNPI project, the “Earth Day Ecology Fair”, where all four sectors meet and work together. SM will feature the fair in ALL its 46 malls nationwide. The focus will be at the SM Megamall, April 16 and 17. At other malls, the fair could go on for a week, depending on mall managers, who have a free hand. The fair will be held in an existing exhibit area of every SM mall, where eco-friendly products, ideas, and advocacies will be put forward.


The DENR will bring in the PENROs and CENROs, and existing local eco-conscious organizations, and invite ecology experts as speakers. Project sponsors from the Private Sector will have a chance to put forward their eco-friendly products and services. Major sponsors include Holcim, Smart, Unilever, and Maynilad. SM will bring in Hypermart with organic products and Ace Hardware with eco-friendly tools. At the Megamall, EDNPI will feature eco-labeling firms, which documents for consumers green products. Each mall will have its own creative program. The fair will be a venue for the four sectors to compare notes, share assets, and brew up new eco-projects together.


Together with La Liga Policy Institute and other NGOs, EDNPI is also set to meet with the DENR to recommend points for its 2014 budget. Projects of EDNPI and other NGOs can be built in, less funds to raise, more time for advocacies, easier procurement of government permits and licenses, better chances of success with DENR logistics support. Bert adds, “These new brand of green NGOs are not adversarial to DENR, but they also are not ‘yes men’.


Bert has a dream for EDNPI’s Total (solid waste) Recovery Program, “If all four sectors work together, and if government is convinced to get rid of dumping garbage in landfills, everything (solid waste) can be recovered so easily down to the barangay level”.


On the ban on plastic bags, Bert says that we seem to have the wrong approach of banning before getting alternatives. We can replace imported paper bags if we set up small Filipino firms everywhere to make them before we impose the ban, that is, if our bayong is not sellable because they are expensive. We catalyze green jobs in the process. Green economics must consider the livelihood factor for Filipinos. Bert adds, “This way we are more pro-consumer and pro-green-jobs all at once”.


Bert points out that charcoal from trees could have been banned only after getting alternatives, such as the shift to green charcoal from agri-waste. ‘Production forests’ of fast growing ipil-ipil and kakawati can also be used for green charcoal expansion. Green regulations must not disrupt livelihood but increase it. DENR’s National Green Plan can catalyze the setup of large green charcoal firms in strategic agri-bound places. They can appropriate budget to let the private sector, NGOs and POs run these. If Church organizations can also pitch in, making the partnership of all 4 sectors. Coal from agri-waste is a form of renewable energy that will save our forests. There is a better way. And that way is the synergy of the four sectors. eastwindreplyctr@gmail.com


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