The InfRES project is under implementation in 779 municipalities in 41 provinces in the Visayas and Mindanao for the past seven years. It aims to reduce poverty through the construction of basic infrastructure - farm to market roads, irrigation and potable water systems - in poor rural areas with high agricultural potential.
Before we used to spend at least 6 hours a day collecting water from the river which is half a kilometer from our home. Two of my children often helped me do this in the morning and the afternoon. This meant that they would often miss school. Now with the support of the project, we collect drinking water from a tap stand near our home. I have more free time and now grow vegetables in my backyard which I sell in the market. I am also the assistant treasurer of my Barangay Water and Sanitation Association." - Neila, a beneficiary of the Infrastructure for the Rural productivity Enhancement Sector Project (InfRES), in Ligao City, Mindanao.
Potable water supply (PWS) and sanitation play an important role in empowering women. Because of the new PWS in their barangay, Neila and her neighbours now have access to safe drinking water throughout the day at a convenient distance from their homes. This has reduced time spent on collecting and boiling water and also looking after sick children and family members as incidence of diarrhea and other water-borne diseases are nor much lower. This has meant that women in the community have now more time to grow vegetables and farm chicken and hogs, or run small enterprises that provide them with financial independence, while their family's diet is supplemented with fresh greens and meat, encouraging better health.
The project's investments in improved irrigation infrastructure increased agricultural productivity and resulted in higher incomes for the farming communities. Prior to the investments, irrigation water used to be rationed, its delivery was erratic and unreliable. Farming families like Neila's had to waste a lot of time during the day to wait for water to come, to open the earthen canal when water was available and close it again after irrigating their crops. Limited access to water meant that farmers could plant rice only once a year and no other crops during the dry season. These conditions constrained farmers' ability to diversify, improve farm output and increase their earnings. With reliable irrigation water, farmers now grow two crops of rice totaling 8500 kilos, giving a gross annual income of 93,5000 pesos. Increased irrigable land also led to an increase in farm work opportunities for women, specifically in transplanting, weeding and harvesting of crops, expanding women's sources of income.
Like Neila, many women are members of the Barangay Water and Sanitation association (BAWASA) and Irrigation Water User Association (WUA). BAWASA and WUA are responsible for day to day management of their systems, including membership and service fees collection, resolving member/household/farm disputes in water distribution and repair and maintenance of the PWS and irrigation systems. The project found that women more effectively resolved concerns, particularly in arranging potable water distribution schemes and scheduling irrigation water distribution. The project supported women's transition from water collection - a family task to supporting women's leadership and engagement in community water management and utilization activities.
Better farm to market roads have meant that Neila's family and other farming households save on transport and farm produce haulage costs. This makes marketing their produce easier and significantly reduces spoilage. Farmers also have improved access to extension services and better access to new technologies. Since the project contact with extension workers are now once a week and farmers' attendance in technology elated seminars and meetings stands at 80%. In addition, basic social services, such as health clinics and hospitals, schools, churches and government offices are now much more accessible.
To date, the project has built about 1300 km of farm to market roads, provided safe water to almost 17,000 households and supplied reliable irrigation to 1500 hectares of productive land. Women have directly benefited from these investments through increased access to education, better reproductive health, income generation and employment and participation in organizational and community affairs.