For nearly three decades, Yamog Renewable Energy Development Group Inc. has been advancing clean energy solutions to improve socio-economic and environmental well-being in rural Mindanao, Philippines. Yamog’s holistic approach prioritizes local capacity building, watershed restoration and sustainable development—resulting in sustainable projects with high value-add that illustrate the wide-reaching potential of community-based, small-scale hydropower.
Keep up to date on Yamog’s impactful work by liking their Facebook page where they frequently post insightful and inspiring updates. A quick scroll reveals just how active the organization is — leading watershed resource mapping, facilitating workshops to build local technical capacity, supporting women-led enterprises, and so much more. Be sure to hit the ‘like’ button and show your support for Yamog’s dedicated efforts to advance sustainable, community-led development.
Since 1993, Yamog Renewable Energy Development Group, Inc. has been working with rural, indigenous populations to improve socio-economic and environmental well-being in Mindanao, Philippines. Since its inception, Yamog has championed a holistic approach to rural electrification and development, leveraging co-benefits of clean energy solutions to catalyze sustainable positive change in marginalized communities.
Currently, although operations have been significantly disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Yamog has several promising, ongoing initiatives underway. Two significant projects were initiated in 2020, and the Yamog team is hopeful that progress on these initiatives will pick up later this year.
Sustainable Energy and Safe Drinking Water in Davao Occidental
One of Yamog’s main ongoing projects centres around the promotion of a locally-operated electricity and water supply system in Sitio Danao, Barangay Pangaleon Municipality of Malita Province of Davao Occidental-Mindana, Philippines. Funded by Misereor-KZE Germany, this project will establish a 26 kW capacity micro hydro system in Sitio Danao.
The Yamog team is grateful for the contributions of HPNET Board Member Gerhard Fisher and company from Pt Entec Indonesia, who fabricated the turbine and electro-mechancial equipment for this project. Following up on a collaboration facilitated by HPNET in 2018, and knowledge exchange activities in 2019, Pt Entec and Yamog continue to collaborate to advance high quality micro hydro equipment in community based projects in Mindanao.
Through this project, Yamog aims to improve the quality of life of the Tagakaulo tribal community, via a participatory approach to community development. Substantive community involvement is prioritized, in order to harness local social capital and build the community’s capacity to manage and sustain the project. This collaborative, participatory approach is very much in line with the local culture, reflecting the spirit of “bayanihan” (communal activities).
Community collaboration has been central, not only in the establishment of the MHP, but also in the promotion of watershed protection and restoration in the Tagakaulo’s ancestral land. The community association, watershed committee and volunteers have collectively carried out resource mapping and planning to mitigate and prevent further environmental destruction and strengthen the watershed ecosystem. They aim to conserve 390 hectares of the watershed, plant 5,000 fruit-bearing and native trees and establish a community-managed nursery, mandating that each member of the community association plant 5 trees every year. To date, they have successfully transplanted around 30% of their total target number of trees.
Yamog, furthermore, aims to promote gender equity through the project, and women have played an important role in activities thus far. One of the project’s core activities focuses on developing sustainable livelihoods for women, to respond to the gendered impacts of energy poverty and limited economic opportunities, and to leverage the valuable role that women play within community development. The community association’s general assembly also voted for a woman to be their chairperson, acknowledging her strong leadership capabilities.
The project team has not yet been able to install the electro-mechanical equipment for the MHP, as their engineers aren’t able to travel to the beneficiary community due to COVID-related restrictions. However, Yamog hopes to complete installation by September or October 2020, so that the community will have electricity access before Christmastime.
Sustainable Energy Project in Mindanao
Another ongoing project at Yamog is called “Improving the Lives of People in Off-Grid Communities in Mindanao through the Provision of Sustainable Energy”, funded by the European Union and Misereor-KZE Germany. This project will establish 6 MHPs and 2,876 solar home lighting systems, serving 4,000 poor, mostly indigenous, households in Mindanao.
The project has four key components: Installation of an energy mix of solar power and micro hydropower; holistic approach in water resource management through a community-driven forest protection initiative; development of local people’s management and technical capacities, and promoting good local governance; and providing a physical center for technical servicing, research and training.
For the last component, Yamog is in the process of setting up the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Technologies (ReSET) Center, where practitioners will learn how to fabricate turbines and other electro-mechanical MHP components, as well as other renewable energy technologies (solar, wind, biogas). The ReSET Center will serve as the hub of renewable energy development in Mindanao, where Yamog will also conduct research and trainings to pass on the RE technologies to grassroots communities.
HPNET members in Indonesia and the Philippines are joining forces to provide high quality micro hydro equipment to community-based projects in Mindanao.
The ASEAN Centre for Hydropower Competance (HYCOM) and Pt Entec Indonesia, both global experts for micro hydro technology transfer, are supporting the Yamog Renewable Energy Development Group, Inc., the pioneering NGO committed for nearly three decades to providing electricity to marginalized communities in Mindanao, to explore establishing local manufacturing of cross-flow turbines.
After multiple online exchanges, in June 2019 HPNET Board members Gerhard Fischer and Ardi Nugraha visited Yamog in Davao City to gauge the local team's capacity for local manufacturing. Then in October 2019, Yamog's technical leads visit Pt Entec and HYCOM in Bandung, Indonesia to better understand quality standards practiced in Indonesia. The collaboration is gradually moving toward the goal of locally manufactured cross-flow turbines in Mindanao.
HPNET facilitated the start of collaboration between PT Entec and Yamog in 2018 and the network has benefited immensely from the ongoing contributions of both organizations. It is great to see continuous knowledge exchange (often self-initiated, as in this case) between these long-standing HPNET Members.
The 10 poorest provinces of the Philippines are located on the island of Mindanao. As with other marginalized places in our world -- where rural, indigenous populations face social exclusion, frustration, and hopelessness in the face of extractive and inequitable economic and political systems -- portions of the island are controlled by separatist movements, with innocent indigenous communities caught in the crossfire between the government and the rebels. The situation exacerbates efforts to bring infrastructure for basic needs (e.g. potable water and electricity) and magnifies the innate challenges of rural development work in developing contexts.
In March 1993, a small, young, and local group of alternative development professionals came together with the mission to improve the socio-cultural, economic, and environmental well-being in rural Mindanao, by promoting the sustainable utilization and management of appropriate renewable energy sources and other natural resources. Versed in technical, ecological, and social aspects of sustainable rural development, the group was called Yamog, translating as dew drops in the Cebuano language.
Distinct from the conventional community development approaches at the time, the pioneers of the Yamog Renewable Energy Development Group, Inc., pursued a path that was anchored on renewable energy as a springboard towards positive, meaningful and enduring change at the grassroots level, to end decades of deprivation. It pioneered utilizing renewable energy, not only to lessen the dependence of poor communities on fossil fuels, but also to offer it as a vehicle for marginalized communities to become sustainable.
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.
Watershed protection and strengthening
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.
Involvement of local government
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.
Community governance of the technology
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.
Local network of technical experts
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.
With a small team, instead of quantity of projects Yamog's work has focused on process and quality to ensure long-term sustainability. Every year the team typically commits to 1-2 projects and implements them with utmost care, focusing on the elements explained above.
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.
Case Study: Sustainability of Lubo Micro Hydro Project -- Two Years Later
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.
At present, 127 households and selected strategic locations of the community are now brightly illuminated at night by energy-saving bulbs. In effect, the 35-kilowatt water-driven renewable energy system has freed the residents of Lubo from decades of heavy dependence on kerosene as the main form of household lighting at night, and as a major source of energy for other community and household activities.
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.
Two public schools with a total of 560 students are also now enjoying the comfort of having unhampered electricity during classes. For the first time, these students are now able to use computers for learning, while teachers can now also use computers to prepare lesson plans, learning aids, aptitude tests, and reports. Places for important social gatherings that utilize electricity for lighting and sound systems, like the Sitio Hall and local churches, are abuzz with activities.
Early in the course of project implementation three years ago, Yamog invested a lot of effort in addressing the software component – that is social infrastructure building – a very crucial element for project sustainability. Capacity building activities in the field of technical operation and maintenance, financial management, organizational building and strengthening, and watershed management, have been conducted in order for the project beneficiaries to acquire the required knowledge, attitudes and skills that would improve their chances of effectively managing their micro-hydro system over the long term. Now it appears that all those efforts have generated very encouraging results as evidenced by the following:
Brimming with enthusiasm, the residents of Sitio Lubo are looking forward to the coming years with a list of more things to do. After two years of operating and maintaining their micro-hydropower system, plans of utilizing the almost unlimited supply of energy at daytime are afoot. Next in the drawing board are the construction of a corn mill, hammer mill (to produce feed stocks using organic raw materials for hog-raising), coffee huller, and other productive end uses of their MHP electricity. All these are aimed at raising family incomes. Fundraising for these spin-off projects would be a big challenge, but they are optimistic that they would achieve these additional facilities that they are aspiring for in the next two years.