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Ecofarm launches online drive to raise water funds

When water from a mountain spring hardly flowed in a village in Tubao, La Union province, since last year, Cyrene Reyes and her partners began to worry about irrigating their model farm called “Pitak Project.”

Reyes and her project partner, Carol Galvez, have been promoting sustainable and regenerative living through natural building and permanent agriculture (or permaculture) since 2012 when they started Pitak in Barangay Pideg in Tubao. Their first venture was a “mud house,” an ecofriendly structure built from natural materials found in the project site, such as clay, rice straw, river sand and rocks, and bamboo.

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Through lectures and forums, Reyes has taken the Pitak environmental adaptation practices to communities in the Ilocos, Cordillera and Cagayan Valley regions, including the provinces of Batanes and Isabela, and as far as the Bicol region.

Pitak members have also cultivated more than 1,000 square meters of rice lands using the system of rice intensification (SRI), which requires less irrigation water.

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“For five months last year, water supply became scarce. It came back only when it started raining in May. To this day … beginning last November, we don’t have water,” Reyes said.

She and her group then looked for other water sources in the farm, and found one after digging a six foot-deep open well.

“We are now dependent on that well, for domestic use and for watering our kitchen gardens. [But] it is a bit far from our hut,” Reyes said.

There is still a lingering concern for the rice farm, which depends on rainwater and water drawn from a creek for irrigation.

On rainy days, Reyes said the group was able to address the issue by harvesting rainwater—digging swales and a mini dam, and installing a pump to lift water from a nearby creek. However, they would still need continuous supply during the dry months.

Solar-powered

The situation has forced them to adopt single rice cropping a year under the SRI method.

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A solar-powered deep well pump would be installed to draw underground water during summer and help them realize better food productivity the whole year. “It has been our plan to be off the (Luzon power) grid, both water and electricity. We focused on solar more than wind power because our site is not windy,” Reyes said.

The group conducted research work and consulted experts on solar pumps, including project costs from drilling, tank storage construction and installing the solar pump, solar panels and accessories.

“We would need at least P500,000 to set up the solar pump,” Reyes said.

Crowd funding

Instead of going through the usual route to avail of grants from funding agencies, the group resorted to an online campaign using crowd funding—a way of raising money contributions from people through the Internet.

“There are small grants and seed grants which require a lot of paper work. But we’re not an NGO (nongovernment organization) or a PO (people’s organization),” Reyes said.

“Crowd funding … is a new concept in the country. It relies on collective action from a network of friends, families and believers. It will only be successful if we campaign and build a tribe around it,” she said.

Organizers launched the “Quest for Water” campaign on March 2. Their goal is to raise the target amount in 45 days through a crowd funding site, wethetrees.com, where people from anywhere can donate any amount.

“If we’re not able to reach the goal amount (within the period), the money will be sent back to the donors. Some campaigns were unsuccessful because it lacked promotion,” Reyes said.

She said that if the group was successful, it would start the groundwork by late April or early May—the best time to drill for groundwater.

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TAGS: Carol Galvez, Cyrene Reyes, Ecofarm, La Union, Pitak Project, Tubao, Water Funds
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