|Water for Health
One of the main problems in rural community development is the quality
of the water and the water supply system. People in northeast Thailand
experienced the inability of public utilities to deliver basic infrastructure
of water systems and maintain the quality of water. As a result, the
water in the northeastern Thailand is often scarce and unhealthy.
Growing asparagus for export
Additionally, Thailand’s agricultural sector is extremely low
compared to that of the services and manufacturing sectors; although
49% of the labor force is engaged in agriculture, its contribution
to Thailand’s GDP is only 10%. Due to the fact that the rainy
season lasts approximately four months, farmers traditionally have
short periods of income generation; this, coupled with the harvesting
of such low-value commodity crops as rice, cassava (tapioca), corn,
sugarcane, coconuts, and soybeans, has created a barrier on the amount
of income that a farmer can produce.
PDI-PDA first responded by establishing the Water Resources Development
and Environmental Sanitation Project (WRD/ES). The project aims to
improve the livelihood of villagers by providing access to clean water
for household and other uses. As a result, PDI-PDA was able to increase
the quantity and improve the quality of water supply through the means
of technologically appropriate water storage such as providing tens
of thousands of wells, tanks and jars. At the same time, environmental
sanitation systems such as village pipe systems, latrines and gray
water treatment plants were built.
In 1990, PDI-PDA linked water resource development to income generation,
through the installation of water collection and distribution systems.
PDI-PDA established “water committees”, which would help
set up and operate the most efficient water resource management systems
for their communities, known as the SKY Irrigation Project. Water resources are installed
by the villagers, operated by the villagers and, in the end, the profits
go back to the villagers to be used as they see fit. The end results,
besides the direct economic benefit, are a strengthening of the social
fabric of a community, a sense of self-determination, and responsibility
for something which benefits the entire community.
Both projects emphasized village self-sufficiency. By training the
villagers to become experts of their own systems, they become self-reliant
for the operations and the maintenance of the systems. The SKY irrigation
system, has allowed villagers to increase their annual income per
hectare. Improved access to water means that farmers can now plant
higher-value crops, resulting in increased revenue per crop cycle.
Improved water resource management has also resulted in an increase
in the number of crop cycles per year; after the installation of the
irrigation system, villagers were able to grow crops outside the rainy
season, which equated to a 200% increase in the number of crops grown
Increasing the number of growing cycles per year means that more labor
is retained in the communities, thus maintaining a higher agricultural
and non-agricultural income-generating capacity. Traditionally, there
was an outflow of human capital from the villages during the dry seasons,
as the young and able bodies migrated to urban areas to find work.
With the irrigation system in place, more people are able to remain
in the community earning money; more people in the villages also means
that the social fabric of the community stays intact. The irrigation
system has also directly benefited the farmers’ productivity
levels, as the farmers are now able to spend more time farming and
less time carting water from the river.
Water storage tanks
||PDI-PDA has installed water collection
and distribution systems in thousands of communities during
the past 20 years. The installation of water sanitation systems
– water jars, water tanks, wells and village piped water
systems - in conjunction with awareness campaigns, has resulted
in less parasitic infections and improved overall health in
all the communities in which PDI-PDA has worked. The improvement
in overall health has meant that more people are able to live
healthier lives and work more days.