By Zaldy De Layola

PROJECT LAWA. Local participants of the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) Project LAWA or the Local Adaptation to Water Access in Barbaza, Antique build a small farm reservoir in preparation for the effects of the El Niño in this undated photo. DSWD Secretary Rex Gatchalian on Friday (Dec. 22, 2023) said the project is in response to the looming impact of the El Niño phenomenon in 2024. (Photo courtesy of DSWD)

MANILA – Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Gatchalian on Friday reasserted the agency’s commitment to strengthening communities against the challenges posed by El Niño through a timely and strategic response to mitigate its potential adverse effects.

He said the DSWD is closely working with the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the United Nations – World Food Program (UN-WFP) for the pilot implementation of Project LAWA or the Local Adaptation to Water Access in selected municipalities in response to the looming impact of El Niño phenomenon in 2024.

“This initiative aligns with the government’s commitment to fostering early actions that contribute to long-term resilience and sustainability in the face of climate-related challenges,” he said in a statement.

Project LAWA, which was officially launched on Aug. 31, 2023, is an initiative of the DSWD, through the Disaster Response Management Bureau (DRMB), that aims to provide a sustainable solution and proactive intervention that will address the challenges faced by poor communities during periods of severe drought.

The project’s framework focused on the construction of small farm reservoirs strategically placed in selected towns over a period of 15 days.

Each reservoir is built within a 20 by 25-square meter area with a maximum depth of 50 feet that would serve as vital water sources for communities during drought or dry spells.

The initial phase of the project was carried out in the towns of Aguinaldo, Alfonso, and Hungduan in Ifugao province (Luzon); Sebaste, Barbaza, and Sibalom in Antique province (Visayas); and Laak, Monkayo, and Compostela in Davao de Oro province (Mindanao).

The strategic locations were specifically chosen based on the severity of the expected impact of El Niño.

Empowering Communities

“Aside from mitigating the effects of the El Niño, Project LAWA aims to empower community members by providing temporary income support through cash-for-training and work modalities in return for labor and skills development,” Gatchalian said.

The funding for the cash-for-training and work program for the project’s beneficiaries falls under the responsibility of the DSWD, which also led the overall implementation of the initiative.

The DSWD partnered with local government units (LGUs) to engage 50 workers in building small farm reservoirs (SFR) or water harvesting facilities for 15 days.

The chosen participants were compensated with 100 percent of the regional minimum daily wage rate ranging from PHP400 to PHP450 a day, totaling PHP6,000 to PHP6,750 for the project duration.

Preference for employment opportunities were given to those listed in DSWD’s Listahanan database, farmers, fisherfolk, indigenous peoples, recipients of the Risk Resiliency Program and other vulnerable sectors impacted by El Niño.

On the other hand, the DA provided crucial technical guidance and criteria for the selection of small farm reservoir locations in the selected municipalities.

Meanwhile, UN-WFP supplied the essential tools to the beneficiaries such as shovels, pickaxes, galvanized iron buckets, gloves, and paddy boots to help facilitate the groundwork required for the success of the project.

“The DSWD believes that by engaging participants in Project LAWA, both water and food security challenges will be addressed since social safety nets will be in place in anticipation of the impact of the El Niño phenomenon,” Gatchalian said. (PNA)