Independent Appeal: Co-operative brings hope to waterless poor
Cahal Milmo is the chief reporter of The Independent and has been with the paper since 2000. He was born in London and previously worked at the Press Association news agency. He has reported on assignment at home and abroad, including Rwanda, Sudan and Burkina Faso, the phone hacking scandal and the London Olympics. In his spare time he is a keen runner and cyclist, and keeps an allotment.
Wednesday 07 January 2009
Two or three times a week the residents of Maharlika, one of many urban poor communities in Bagong Silang, a suburb in the Philippines capital, wait along the main street for the city government tankers to deliver water. There is no fixed time. People often wait for hours at the five delivery points because failing to do so will mean losing the opportunity to get free water.
Those who make it through the queues spend another 20 minutes hauling water from the roadside drums to their homes. Women and children are usually the main collectors. It is back-breaking work. But the alternatives – private trucks that sell water or buying from neighbours who are on the mains – are either more expensive or more tiresome.
Bagong Silang is one of 212 so-called "waterless communities" in Manila, the capital of one of the most unequal countries in the world where almost half the population lives on less than £1 a day. Access to safe, adequate and affordable water is a critical issue in such shanty towns. Though international standards suggest that only 3 per cent of a household's monthly income should be spent on water, many in Manila spend as much as 30 per cent.
But more than money is at stake. Lack of access to clean water results in poor sanitation which causes severe health problems, particularly for children. The desperate situation prompted the residents of Maharlika to take matters into their own hands. Two years ago a group, composed mostly of housewives, decided to form a community water service co-operative. They were supported by a local non-government organisation, the Institute for Popular Democracy, a partner of One World Action – one of the three charities in this year's Independent Appeal.
With funding from the UK charity the co-operative hired an engineer and developed a business plan. It also provided training for the group and linked it with other communities which had successfully tackled water problems.
Since Manila's water companies claimed they could not afford to expand their pipelines to provide service to Maharlika, the co-operative took on the task itself, collecting fees from households – a challenging task that discourages water companies from setting up connections in poor areas. In the beginning only 20 households joined. "Many were too poor to afford the [£50] connection fee that the co-operative needs to buy pipes and pay for connection," said Ami Conti, manager of the co-operative. But as the plan has developed more than 100 families have joined up.
A key part of its success has been the loan that the co-operative has obtained from an institution specialising in finance for community ventures.
Having other sources of financing is important because projects to connect waterless areas are usually funded through the patronage of politicians. Politicians spend money on delivering water via trucks, a method that is inefficient and expensive yet politically useful. Communities who support the "wrong" candidate often do not get the services they need.
The co-operative used its initial seed fund as down-payment to secure two water meters from Maynilad, the water company that covers the area. Using these it connected into Maynilad's main pipelines. It then purchased pipes from a local hardware store and connected the first households. Challenges remain but the group has now connected 103 poor households to reliable and safe water.
The co-operative needs additional funding to connect the other 700 households within its target area. "If the co-operative succeeds," says Jude Esguerra, IPD's director, "it will serve as a blueprint for how communities can work together to secure the services they need and provide hope for the hundreds of other waterless communities."
- 2 Qataris pledge to expand Canary Wharf
- 3 #JeSuisEd: People share photos of themselves eating awkwardly in solidarity with Labour leader
- 4 Women think Irish men are the sexiest, survey finds
- 5 Florida couple forced to register as sex offenders for having sex on public beach
#JeSuisEd: People share photos of themselves eating awkwardly in solidarity with Labour leader
Florida couple forced to register as sex offenders for having sex on public beach
UK election candidates: 'Nasty party' Ukip faces fresh questions on eve of vote
Who should I vote for in the general election? Take The Independent's interactive quiz to find out which party's the right choice for you
Ohio 'Shawshank Redemption' fugitive Frank Freshwater arrested after 56 years on the run
In defence of liberal democracy
General Election 2015: Post-election 'shambles' looms as 70 per cent of voters say SNP 'should not be able to veto UK government policies'
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
General election live: SNP suspends two members for disrupting Labour rally
General election live: Booths open at 7am across the country on polling day
£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...
£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...
£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...
£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...