By Zaldy De Layola

Department of Social Welfare and Development’s Project LAWA (Local Adaptation to Water Access) construction in Ifugao province (Photo courtesy of DSWD-CAR)

MANILA – The construction of small farm reservoirs (SFRs) under the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) Project LAWA or Local Adaptation to Water Access in the pilot provinces has been completed, Secretary Rex Gatchalian said on Sunday.

“For the provinces of Ifugao in Luzon, Antique in the Visayas, and Davao de Oro in Mindanao, coping with the possible effects of the El Niño phenomenon may be one less worry as they start the year 2024,” Gatchalian said in a news release.

The municipalities of Aguinaldo, Alfonso Lista and Hungduan in Ifugao; Sebaste, Barbaza and Sibalom in Antique; and Laak, Monkayo and Compostela in Davao de Oro will particularly benefit from the SFRs.

The pilot areas were identified based on the severity of the expected impact of El Niño next year.

Gatchalian said the cash-for-work (CFW) and cash-for-training (CFT) components of Project LAWA paved the way for the construction of the SFRs.

“The local residents themselves were engaged in Project LAWA and they helped in building these water reservoirs that will benefit their respective communities amid the possible impacts of a dry spell on their livelihood,” he said.

Residents in the pilot areas in the provinces were provided with financial support, through the DSWD’s CFW and CFT, in exchange for the work they rendered in constructing the alternative water resources.

“The Project LAWA aims to assist and protect poor and vulnerable communities from the impacts of the slow onset of the El Niño phenomenon by giving them sustainable water sources and additional income support,” the DSWD chief said.

The SFRs are strategically placed in selected towns for 15 days and constructed within a 20 by 25-square meter area with a maximum depth of 50 feet.

“These reservoirs are intended to serve as vital water sources for communities during periods of drought or dry spells. Aside from an alternative water source, it can also serve as ponds to breed and raise fish and irrigation for their agricultural products,” he said.

Ensuring food security

Gatchalian said more than providing a sustainable source of water supply, Project LAWA is one of the agency’s food security measures to achieve the goal of “walang gutom na pamilyang Pilipino” (no Filipino family will experience hunger), especially from indigenous communities, farmers, fisherfolk, and women sectors, by making them productive.

“With the availability of sustainable water supply through the SFRs, communities are able to plant more fruit-bearing trees, disaster-resilient crops and vegetables, as well as implement aquaponics and aquaculture activities for their proper nourishments,” Gatchalian said.

Nationwide implementation

Gatchalian said the project will be rolled out in more areas next year.

“We thank our partners like the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the World Food Programme as well as the local government units for their commitment to support Phase 2 of the project,” he said.

Officially launched on Aug. 31, Project LAWA, through DSWD Disaster Response Management Bureau, is one of the agency’s contributions to the Sustainable Development Goals — no poverty, no hunger, climate action — and to the Philippine Development Plan 2023 to 2028 under Climate Resiliency and Food Security. (PNA)