When Yamog was established 20-years ago, nearly half of Mindanao was un-electrified. Even now Mindinao's largest city faces daily blackouts lasting 12 hours. Yet, the nearly 2500 households that have electrified their villages with Yamog's help do not have to rely on the central grid and can access 24/7 electricity. Yamog continues to facilitate other communities in rural Mindanao and Visayas in generating their own electricity from micro hydro or solar power.
The effectiveness of Yamog's work is rooted its integrated approach to community-based micro hydropower. In each project, Yamog's long-experienced staff of 7 are committed to instilling the environmental, institutional, social, and technical aspects that are critical to the project's life.
Because the output of any micro hydropower unit is dependent on the stream flow, Yamog's implementation process starts with a focus on rehabilitating the source of the stream -- the watershed. Yamog works closely with the community to evaluate, protect, and strengthen the watershed of the proposed micro hydro site. After signs of a robust watershed and the community's will to preserve it emerge, Yamog moves onto installing the micro hydro hardware.
The process can add an extra year to the project implementation, often with additional communities to facilitate (e.g. where the upstream community managing the watershed is km's away from the micro hydro community downstream). Yet, with increasing climate change impacting not only micro hydro but also the community's access to drinking and irrigation water, prioritizing resilient watersheds is well worth the added effort and time.
A key aspect to Yamog's work is facilitating communities to generate support from the leaders of their barangay (the most local administrative unit) for watershed strengthening and micro hydropower implementation. Although challenging, this process has resulted in community hydropower units that have greater vested stake from the local government, and a paved path for the community to reach out to local officials regarding other village development needs. Support from local government can also help establish productive use for community income generation from micro hydropower, e.g. financing of agro processing units such oil mills and rice hullers.
In parallel to watershed strengthening and micro hydro installation, Yamog facilitates the community to identify its governing strengths and build upon them, in order to develop a unified governance of the new micro hydropower unit. Yamog staff build the capacity of community leaders to manage and lead project implementation from its start. At various stages Yamog holds in-depth technical and institutional training for community members. This has ensured that by the time of commissioning electricity generation, the community's governance structure can independently manage the electricity tariff collection, community fund, technical operation, maintenance, and productive use of the micro hydro system.
Since Yamog does not fabricate its own turbines and load controllers, it ensures that the hardware developers commit to delivering high quality systems and local training to community-level technicians. Having implement nearly 30 projects, Yamog has developed a village-to-village network of technical experts for civil works installation and trouble shooting of electro-mechanical components. For example, the village masons from completed projects mentor the masons of new projects, carrying forward technical lessons of earlier projects. This in-turn has led to a local knowledge sharing network that can sustain itself without the involvement of Yamog. In addition, it has helped to diversify the skillsets in indigenous communities, where traditional livelihoods are at risk due to extractive activities of mainstream development.
While larger organizations, with greater number of staff and funding, can easily implement many projects in parallel, they can be prone to frequent staff turnover and prioritizing targets over processes. In some cases this has led to micro hydropower units that are not long-sustained and soon need rehabilitation. In this context, HPNET takes inspiration from Yamog's steady and process-focused momentum to establish community micro hydropower.
To give you a glimpse of the Yamog's work in action, below is a brief case study of Lubo village's micro hydropower project.
The residents of Sitio Lubo continue to enjoy the benefits of having a 35-kilowatt micro-hydropower system. Since the renewable energy project was handed-over by Yamog to the Lubo Renewable Energy Community Association (LURECDA) in June 2013, the lives of the people in this isolated and marginalized community have steadily changed for the better.
Situated deep in the highlands of Barangay Ned, Lake Sebu in the province of South Cotabato, Sitio Lubo is an off-grid community inhabited by mostly Christian peasant settlers. It is about 65 kilometers from Koronadal City, South Cotabato. It is populated by 150 households who, for many decades, have been resigned to their dismal fate of being deprived of opportunities that would improve their socio-economic situation. No one among them could have imagined that their vast water resource would someday lift them up from their collective sense of hopelessness and helplessness.
Moreover, about 20 households have engaged in small income generating activities after having procured refrigerators to store locally-made food products (which are kept fresh because of the presence of 24-hour electricity) for sale. Taking advantage of the presence of electricity, both men and women can also engage in income generating activities even at night. Schoolchildren are inspired to work on their nightly home works because of the presence of good lighting within their households. Gone were the days when they had to contend with the unsteady illumination from kerosene lamps which spewed a lot of carbon dioxide that endangered their health.
As a result, the Lubo micro-hydropower system is estimated to prevent the release of some 136 tons of carbon dioxide annually into the atmosphere as the community veers away from fossil fuel (i.e. kerosene and diesel generators). The modest contribution of this community to address global warming is manifested in its commitment to protect its watershed. Around 10 percent of monthly operation and maintenance funds collected from LURECDA member-households are allocated for reforestation activities. A healthy watershed also ensures steady supply of water that drives their micro-hydropower system.
- 99% collection rate of monthly operation and maintenance contributions from member-households. LURECDA now has sufficient funds to meet operation and maintenance requirements.
- Financial recording is excellent, with internally audited monthly and annual financial reports produced and readily made available to LURECDA members.
- The trained power house operators, and weir/intake caretakers are still very active and committed to ensure efficient operation of vital electro-mechanical equipment that make possible the distribution of electricity to the households in the community.
- LURECDA leaders (from the Board of Directors to the Operations and Maintenance Personnel) are in very high morale and functioning according to their assigned roles and responsibilities.
- Regular recording on the logbook to monitor the daily performance and problems encountered at the power house is being done by the trained operators.
- Regular cleaning of the forebay tank and the weir/intake is done every Saturday (at least for 2-hours).
- Especially after a heavy rain, the operators are always quick to clean the weir/intake & forebay tank and rid them of any sedimentation and debris, and inspect the whole transmission and distribution lines as part of standard operation and maintenance procedures.