ISULAN, Sultan Kudarat— At first glance, Allah River is a gift to the villagers of Dansuli. Farmers regarded it as lifeblood that feeds farms along its riverbanks and that, sights and sounds usually delight people at time hundreds of hectares of gold-like rice fields about to be harvested dance in a cold breeze of the wind in a sunny day.

But, with the unpredictable weather, that in a snap, heavy downpour of rains starts, anxiety and fear also begin to engulf villagers. For many times, the river overflows, wreaking the low-lying areas that in a short period of time, the deluge of water saw the village in disarray.

Villagers recognize that varying weathers would bring in its wake any cause of concern for a disaster. Most often, villagers especially farmers are left with no choice but to count their losses.

Need for river embankment

History tells that a major flashflood that hit Allah River was in 1995, leaving at least 53 people dead and devastated millions worth of infrastructure, agricultural crops and properties.

However, as time goes by, the river continues to expand, damaging hundreds of hectares of farmlands and some local communities.

Reynaldo O. Bagaforro, 66, could not hide his frustration every time he remembers how constant flooding especially in the wake of the continuing sporadic heavy rains in the area, affecting the economic activity of the community.

“Malaking bahagi ng aming sakahan ang sinira ng baha at pati buhay namin ay nalalagay sa kapahamakan tuwing malakas ang ulan at tataas ang tubig,” (A big portion of our farms has been destroyed by flood and our lives are at risk every time the heavy downpour of rains and water level started to increase), Bagaforro says.

It was in mid of 2012 according to Bagaforro, when Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Services (Kalahi-CIDSS) came in Dansuli, bringing hope of changing the situation of the village. In series of barangay assembly, villagers easily identified the river embankment project as the most pressing need of the community.

“Eto na iyon eh!, iyong matagal naming hinihintay,” (This is it!, the one that we are looking for many years), Bagaforro says, which volunteers in the project as one of the members of the project preparation team (PPT), adding that he saw the collaborative efforts of local officials and communities but the problem still continues to hound them.

Everybody’s business

The journey of finally realizing the long awaited dreams of Dansuli villagers was not as easy as it was conceived. Convincing other barangays for the approval and prioritization of 500 linear meters river embankment for flood protection amounting to P 2,602,526.00 was a huge challenge.

“Tungod sa kadaku sang ginapropose namon nga proyekto, madamo ang nagasiling nga basi indi paboran sang kadamuan,” (Because of the huge amount of the project we proposed, some said that it might not get favor from the majority), says Eilen Delo, 22, serves as barangay clerk and chosen as the barangay sub-project management committee (BSPMC) chairperson.

They have to bank on the idea that putting a river embankment project to address the dangers posed by constant flooding, is not just concern of Dansuli villagers, but a business of all the neighboring communities that are and will be affected by floods. Furthermore, urgency is also the project’s language considering the unpredictable weather conditions according to Delo.

“Ang proyekto nga ini, indi lang para sa amon kung hindi para sa tanan nga pwede maapektuhan sang baha,” (This project is not just about Dansuli residents but to all concerned communities can be affected by floods) Delo adds.

Their efforts were gone unnoticed after successfully getting nods from other villages, putting the village in a history for having as one of the largest projects funded by Kalahi-CIDSS in Region XII.

Today, areas that used to be idle lands are now gradually utilized by farmers, considering Dansuli as one of the central agricultural producing villages in Isulan, especially the rice.

“Unti-unti ng natatamnan ng mga magsasaka ang mga lupa na dati ay hindi nagagamit dahil sa dinaanan ng tubig,” (Little by little, farmers start to plant on those idle lands affected by floods), Bagaforro says, adding that yields of farmers increased because of the Project.

Bagaforro estimated at least 60 hectares used to be unproductive lands are now toiled back by farmers which were used as path of water especially during floods.

Embanking resiliency

For barangay captain Joel M. Doronio, more than the river embankment project, the process employed in the Project is what that amazed him.

The people, according to Doronio became closer, involved and informed in making decision and activities of the community. As barangay official, he said that the process of arriving for an appropriate intervention in the identified community concerns through an inclusive-participatory strategy is tiring, yet seeing the results are priceless.

“Labaw sa tanan, bilang isa ka opisyal sang baranagay nga makita mo nga nagabuliganay ang tanan para sa isa ka proyekto amo ang isa ka bagay nga indi mabayran sang kwarta,” (Above all, seeing villagers helping or contributing in the project is one thing that is priceless) barangay captain Doronio says.

Doronio expressed that when people are empowered, they become more proactive and resilient in life adversaries because of the unity and cooperation present in the community.

Furthermore, Doronio is also happy to note the Project successfully inculcate the essential thought of protecting the riverbank and promoting environmental volunteerism from people. The project becomes a growing symbol calling for the protection of environment, of lives, of properties in town. For Project is not just to boost agriculture but also seen as an opportunity for the conservation of biodiversity in the area.

Various schools and organizations did their own share to sustain the Project. Beaming in their soiled hands, students and private individuals are conducting tree growing activities along the riverbank as part of their regular extension activities. Fruit and forest trees were planted and closely monitored in an attempt to hold the soils from eroding.

For barangay captain Doronio, the real embankment is in the heart of each villager, sowing the unity and cooperation in development directions including environmental protection. Together, they can weather the strong storms and winds of challenges today and beyond…