As one of SIBAT's thrust in community-based renewable energy development, a project team was organized to develop Kimbutan's microhydro power enterprise project. As an introduction, let me first provide a brief background of the indigenous people in Kimbutan and their community as well as the status of their microhydro project in partnership with SIBAT.
Brgy. Kimbutan is one of the mountainous agricultural barangays of Dupax del Sur town in the province of Nueva Vizcaya, located 27 kilometers from Malasin, the nearest town center. The project site can be reached via a three-hour ride from Bambang through a combination of an all-weather type and dirt road. During rainy season when the muddy road from Brgy. Belance is not passable by car, one had to trek for almost three hours to reach the Sitio Kimbutan Proper which is the center of Brgy. Kimbutan and where the project is located.
Population: Sitio Kimbutan Proper is composed of 30 households with a total of 1,444 individuals. Majority are men (56%) than women (44%). The residents of Kimbutan belong to numerous ethnic groups that include the Bugkalots, Kan-kanaeys, Ibalois, Kalanguyas, and Ilocanos. The sitio is predominantly inhabited by Roman Catholics (57%) followed by Lutheran Church (19%) and UCCP (14%) believers.
Number of barangays: The sitio is under the jurisdiction of only one barangay, the Brgy. Kimbutan. It is also the economic center of Brgy. Kimbutan where the barangay hall, barangay clinic, day care center and elementary school, and different churches are located.
Major economic activities: Main cash crops are vegetable and herbs and spices production in upland areas. Vegetable varieties include cauli flower, cabbage, eggplant, Baguio beans, sweet peas, carrots, squash, yakon (local rootcrops), among others. Herbs and spices varieties include ginger, bell pepper, celery, tomato, lasona (sibuyas Ilocano), among others. In the production of these, the farmers utilize the following tools; diesel-powered (motorized) grass cutter for clearing the land, usually through kaingin; then use grab-hoe, bolo, and spade for planting activities; then nurture the crop by using chemical sprayer and rainburst/shower hose using water from the watershed through gravity flow; and finally use scythe for harvesting and manually transport the produce to the household areas for post-harvest activities. Rice and corn are being cultivated mostly for household consumption. Rice is the main staple for the community while corn is usually used as animal feeds. For these crops, the farmers utilize the following tools from preparation to planting and harvesting: kuliglig or diesel-powered agri-tractor (only some uses this), carabao and araro, scythe and diesel-powered thresher (for rice only). Only one thresher is available in the whole barangay and is privately owned. A diesel-powered rice mill also operates in the sitio and is privately owned too. All households are into vegetable and herbs and spices production with varied degree of agricultural output depending on the size of lands that each is cultivating and the capacity to produce capital for farming inputs.
Poor water quality. Almost all of the households in the sitio have access to water, although the problem is its quality (not potable and the residents still needs to boil so that it could be used as drinking water) and weak supply during summer or El Nino season, where the supply is reduced to 12 hours. The community organization plans to revive the source of water spring that was installed in the 80s and is now in dire condition.
Education – literacy rate, out-of-school youth population. Since it is in Sitio Kimbutan Proper where a day care center and an elementary school are located, almost all of the children have access to formal education. But in general, most of the residents have only reached secondary level since colleges and universities are too far from the barangay, not to mention the relatively high cost of college education that the locals cannot afford.
Governance/Community Empowerment. The participation of the community organization, Brgy. Kimbutan Farmers’ Development Organization (BKFDO), in the barangay affairs is somehow embedded in the PO plans. Although this participation is indirect, because some of the PO officers and members are concurrently elected barangay officials such as the Barangay Chairman and one Kagawad. It is interesting to note that the lively dynamics of BKFDO somehow emanates from the fact that its leaders and officers had served or presently serves as barangays officials. This gives the organization the necessary capacity (learned from managing the barangay) to manage the PO operations even though the PO officers have no formal trainings in leadership and organizational management. Another interesting thing is that the BKFDO members and leaders are very conscious and practices the delineation of being a PO officer and being an elected official: if a PO officer is already elected as a barangay official, he/she needs to let go of the former position to give way for other leaders to assume the vacant position. Still, in general, a clear plan for engagement with the barangay structure is still in the stage of infancy and needs to be developed so that the community plans could be formally adopted by the Barangay Council in their annual investment and development plans. But the essence of community empowerment, through the auspices of BKFDO, is very evident in its active implementation of plans and projects particularly the Microhydro power (MHP) plant that provides electricity to Sitio Kimbutan Proper households and several community infrastructures.
Environment. The water being utilized to power up the MHP system comes from the Dangui creek and five other smaller creeks, the source of which is a 35-hectare watershed under the care of the local Roman Catholic Church. But in the whole barangay, only several watershed areas are remaining and the rest are either deforested or used as farmlots by the farmers through kaingin. In general, the ecological problems in the barangay is considered critical: soil erosion due to kaingin system, and deforested hills causing landslides and muddy roads during rainy season that makes the road leading to the community in the degree from difficult to trek to non-passable, and the soil is non-productive during dry season because of the lack of proper irrigation. During strong typhoons, the ensuing landslides put heavy damage to the crops as what had happened during the onslaught of recent Typhoons Pedring and Quiel last 2011. Thus, there is a big necessity to include in the community plan the development of watershed management to protect the source of the water for the MHP and save the crops from the devastation.
At present, Kimbutan is considered unelectrified by the local electric cooperative, along with the two other nearby upland barangays. According to the Nueva Vizcaya Electric Cooperative (Nuvelco), of the three unelectrified barangays, Brgy. Kimbutan is the priority to be connected into the local grid due to its strategic location and its thriving vegetable production. As assessed by the local government, the barangay has the potential to be the center of agricultural production in the upland areas, thus, the need for it to be electrified. With this in mind, Nuvelco had already submitted a grid extension plan to the National Electrification Administration (NEA) and the Department of Energy (DOE) for funding. But currently, there is still no response from these national agencies regarding the plan and funding.
Status of Microhydro Project. As early as 1998, the concept of Community-Based Renewable Energy Systems (CBRES) was introduced in the barangay. CBRES are small, decentralized energy systems that tap local energy sources (hydro, solar, and wind) and are established through community efforts. Microhydro (MHP) is a tested viable CBRES for sites with adequate water source such as Brgy. Kimbutan. The Kimbutan MHP project is owned, operated, managed and sustained by the local community organization (BKFDO) in partnership with support institutions (SIBAT, Brgy. Kimbutan Council, and assistance from DOE).
A MHP is designed to generate affordable and adequate energy for households and community, based on the assessment of present and future energy needs (e.g., for household and community lighting, agro-processing, livelihood activities, potable water and irrigation systems, and battery charging stations). In this way, benefits derived from energy provision by CBRES directly serve or impact on communities. The community sets the household tariff based on capacity to pay, and other tariffs to meet the cost-covering tariff.
The 7-kilowatt (KW) MHP system in Kimbutan was installed in 2003, originally serving 11 households. At present, it provides electricity for 24 households and the community clinic, day care center, and the barangay hall. Due to the damage in one of its electro-mechanical components (the generator), the system’s full potential is not being utilized. Only 30% of the 7KW is currently in use within the 12-hour (6pm to 6am) a day operation that limits the use of each household in lighting of only three CFL bulbs; no other small appliances, such as TV, are being used, except to some of those who has it. The limited potential of the MHP is also attributed to the absence of the electronic load controller (ELC) component that automatically regulates the electricity supply so that a stable supply would be ensured and the loads (lights, small and big appliances, and small motorized equipments) will not be damaged due to electric surge.
The MHP’s civil structures are also in bad condition mostly due to the landslides caused by the Pedring and Quiel typhoons last year. These are the intake (that catches the water source), forebay (that stores the required water volume then supply it to the turbine through the penstock), and the powerhouse (where the turbine and generator are located).
Also, the present MHP’s transmission and distribution lines is made out of undersized copper that does not comply with the standards; further, the electric posts are still made of local wood that are prone to typhoon damage. Lastly, the MHP has currently only two operators.
SIBAT in partnership with BKDFO will now go into upgrading and improving the microhydro project into a power enterprise which I will be providing further details in my next report.
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