By Willyn Carrascal, GFF Representative, Philippines
In October 2018, GFF HELPS Philippines set out a new venture to bring light to those in need in the form of solar power in Madalag, a predominantly rural municipality in Aklan, Philippines. This area was chosen for the trial of the solar project after a long and careful consideration of necessity, accessibility and safety.
Access to electricity is a basic need in any household and the lack of it may affect an individual’s life in different ways. Families with no electricity will have shorter productivity as they heavily rely on sunlight during the day to do housework. At night, they would typically use kerosene in a glass bottle as light. This may be harmful to their health and a huge fire hazard, especially to houses made of bamboo and nipa (palm leaves). Students also find it difficult to do their homework without adequate lighting. By providing this necessity, we would not only help eliminate these problems but also create a safer place and turn a house into a home.
Through the help of a contact of our previous local partner, we were able to get in touch with the Mayor of Madalag, which then led to a meeting of barangay (village) officials. This meeting allowed us to introduce the project to the village captains and show them D’light D330. This kit contains one fluorescent light, two light bulbs with switches and a lithium battery powered by small solar panel. The next step that followed was a survey of the first target village called Panipiason, the furthest village in Madalag. It takes forty-five minutes to reach Madalag town centre via motorbike and another forty-five minutes to reach Panipiason through habal-habal (motorbike taxi). Taking these motorbike taxis is a must as the road is rough, steep and narrow.
Panipiason is large geographically but the population remains smaller in comparison to its neighbouring villages. Most houses were built from bamboo and a lot were donated by Red Cross after the devastating typhoon Hainan in 2013. This rural community tried to rebuild themselves with the very few resources they had. They are now recovering by making abaca fiber, a crop made from bananas and bamboos that they deliver through the river. However, they can only make very little profit from this as the ‘middle man’ buys their product for much lesser price than the market price. Panipiason also has beautiful rice terraces, solely for consumption. Their main source of water is from shallow wells, nearby springs and rivers. Panipiason was one of the two villages that did not have electricity until last year due to its distance from the main transmission lines. Nevertheless, there are still a lot of houses that do not have electricity due to two main reasons, distance and inability to afford electricity installation and monthly fees.
The barangay officials of Panipiason provided a list of people who fit our criteria to receive these solar panels. We prioritised families that lived in Sityo (site) Luho, the furthest part of Panipiason and households with no electricity that have children, senior citizens and people with disability. Prior to ordering the panels, we coordinated with the Mayor and Panipiason’s village captain with regards to storage, logistics and distribution. We also organised the tools and materials they would need to install the solar panels. Initially, our plan was to provide a carpenter to install the panels but later realised that D’light D330 was designed for easy installation and that people from rural communities are self-efficient when it comes to construction work. If they’re not skilled enough, the sense of bayanihan comes in, where friends or neighbours help each other to achieve a goal.
Later this month, we will be returning to Panipiason to find out how it has impacted the beneficiaries’ lives since they received it four months ago. We look forward to sharing our findings with you. In the meantime, we are preparing to expand this into the next two villages in the coming months.