Dutch-led Negros NGO all pumped up for Award
BACOLOD CITY—For perfecting a near-forgotten technology that supplies water to upland villages, the Alternative Indigenous Development Foundation Inc. (AIDFI) of Negros Occidental has been named among the winners of this year’s Ramon Magsaysay Awards.
“We will use this award to further spread our technology of bringing water to more people in poor villages in the Philippines and around the world,” Dutch marine engineer Auke Idzenga said on Thursday.
Idzenga heads AIDFI, which is based in Barangay (village) Mansilingan in this city. He has lived in the Philippines for 23 years, is married to a Negrense, and speaks fluent Ilonggo.
An AIDFI ram pump literally pushes water uphill using the power of a river or a spring—a boon for impoverished communities in mountain barangays. It brings between 1,500 and 72,000 liters a day to upland reservoirs without the use of electricity or gas.
It does away with not only hours of back-breaking work hauling water but also payments for the maintenance and repair of expensive water pumps, Idzenga said.
‘Crown on our work’
He said AIDFI had so far installed 1,185 ram pumps in the Philippines, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Nepal, East Timor, Japan, Malaysia, Peru, Costa Rica and France, helping a total of 55,000 residents of upland villages.
Carmencita Abella, president of the Ramon Magsaysay Awards Foundation (RMAF), announced in a statement that AIDFI “is being recognized for its collective vision, technological innovations and partnership practices to make appropriate technologies improve the lives and livelihoods of the rural poor in upland Philippine communities and elsewhere in Asia.”
Idzenga said he and his Filipino colleagues in AIDFI were honored to be bestowed the most prestigious award in Asia.
“It is no joke to be recognized by the RMAF. They secretly studied our work without our knowledge, and must have given us the award for consistent and hard work,” Idzenga said.
“It is a very big honor. It is a crown on our work, but we will remain low-profile as we continue to further spread our work,” he said.
AIDFI is no stranger to commendations, having received the 1st Green Award of the Department of Energy in 2007, the Ashden Award from former US Vice President Al Gore in London in 2008, and an Energy Globe Award from the European Parliament.
It was also recognized at the Clinton Global Initiative in Hong Kong in 2008 and the BBC World Challenge in Amsterdam last year for its “Running Water Uphill” entry.
Idzenga described AIDFI as “a nongovernment, nonprofit, noncorporate service institution.”
“We stand for development but one that is preferentially biased for the poor and marginalized sectors, landless farmers, farm workers, agrarian reform beneficiaries, settlers, indigenous communities, small agricultural producers and urban poor associations,” he said.
Idzenga and a small group of Filipinos started AIDFI in the 1980s to help farmers and their families cope with the sugar industry crisis.
Lack of funding and membership momentarily shut down the foundation, but it bounced back in 1997 to pursue its technology-driven antipoverty mission.
“Its struggle to exist as a viable organization has been most trying in both institutional and human terms, but AIDFI has pioneered a way that has already transformed the lives of thousands of rural families,” the RMAF said.
It added: “AIDFI does not only introduce machinery but [also] a whole ‘social package,’ which includes community consultation, training of village technicians, transfer of ownership of the water system to the community, and the organization of local water associations to manage the water generation and distribution system.”
Named after the late, well-loved Philippine President Ramon Magsaysay, the Awards have been given to 284 laureates from all over Asia for leadership and public service.
AIDFI and five other change-makers will receive Asia’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize in rites on August 31 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
The others to be awarded are engineer Harish Hande of India, who tapped solar energy to power lights and cooking stoves; Indonesian educator Hasanain Juaini, who advocates gender equality; Koul Panha, who advocates clean elections in Cambodia; Indian Nileema Mishra, who brought microcredit and livelihood to poor village women; and Indonesian Tri Mumpuni, whose organization brings alternative power facilities to rural areas in her country.
“Their concerns are clearly quite diverse—affordable electricity, political reform, inclusive education, economic empowerment, access to water. But there is one thing these Magsaysay laureates share: a greatness of spirit, which infuses their leadership for change,” the RMAF’s Abella said.
“They all build collaboration and seek consensus wherever possible. They all refuse to give up despite adversity and opposition,” she said. With a report from Tarra Quismundo in Manila
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.