PDI Global
[ Village Development Partnership ]
Water for Health and Wealth

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 per year.

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.


PDI is a 501(C)(3) organization based in the United States committed to eradicating poverty worldwide