Ifugao Province in the Northern Philippines, its lush hillsides circled by ancient rice terraces, is beautiful. It is also remote and poor. It lacks reliable electricity. Its young people are leaving. The rice terraces are being abandoned. Loggers have moved in, bringing deforestation and increased risk of flooding.
Save the Ifugao Terraces Movement (SITMo), a local NGO, knew that people would only stay in the region if it offered them a decent living. Power supply was the key. And in the many irrigation channels around the hillside SITMo had a ready-made solution: hydro electric power.
Three different-sized turbines were developed. The existing irrigation channels could be used for water supply, which limited cost and environmental impact. The cost of the turbines is paid for by government and international donors, but villagers pay for the connection. This usually costs around US$130 with villagers paying via a credit scheme arranged by SITMo’s parent NGO. Crucially SITMo uses a community-based model when working in villages, working through local organisations to transfer knowledge and enable ongoing maintenance.
The turbines provide electrical power for lighting, televisions and radio. But they also provide more regular light and power for studying and craft work such as basket weaving. The larger turbines enable small businesses to use power tools and farmers to use electricity for milling rice and coffee – the milled product has twice the value.
Alongside benefits to the population are benefits to the environment. Studies suggest 32 tonnes/year of CO2 are saved by the reduced use of kerosene lamps. And SITMo is not only reversing depopulation. Trees are being planted to reverse deforestation. Both people and environment are being encouraged to stay.