'Water for People' Partnership shows early results

Water for People

UNDP's new partnership with the Metropolitan Waterworks Authority (MWA) is beginning to bear fruit.

Small grant projects along the Mae Klong river basin are restoring local ecosystems, enhancing local livelihoods, and educating communities about the importance of clean water and organic farming.

Highlights

  • The four year partnership will provide nearly $700,000 to 20 projects to protect water resources, build community networks, and create awareness.
  • Rehabilitation of waterways has begun through the restoration of a 16-acre orchard and a 5-acre waterway system.
  • Restoration of the natural orchards will also boost local livelihoods. 1,000 fruit-bearing trees like the gag fruit will be planted and harvested, creating organic soaps and body wash.
  • As many as 260 farmers and 100 students will ultimately benefit from organic farming trainings, and as many as 250 families will benefit from increased crop yield and improved water quality.

The MWA took interest in the successes of UNDP's Small Grants Programmes (SGP) and teamed up with UNDP last July to boost water resource management along the Mae Klong and the Chao Phraya river basins. The four year partnership will provide nearly $700,000 to 20 projects to protect water resources, build community networks, and create awareness.

In two rural provinces, 'Water for People' grants are beginning to show early results. The quiet town of Bangkrasorb, in Samut Prakarn province borders a habitat for fireflies and a natural wetland that's home to a variety life. The region also serves as a water "lung" to Bangkok. But poor community wastewater management has led to degradation of waterways, poor drainage, and deserted natural orchards.

"The quality of water in this canal was zero and nothing could survive," said Ms. Rujiret Plubjang, Project Leader, Lamphoo-Bang Krasorb Environmental Conservation Group.

With a small grant from UNDP and MWA, rehabilitation of the waterways has begun through the restoration of a 16-acre orchard and a 5-acre waterway system. Villagers, with the help of a local conservation group have installed 10 nutrient filter pits, which treat wastewater before it reenters the waterway.

"The water has really improved. Nowadays, there are living species coming back to this canal, such as fish, shrimp, and crab," said Plubjang.

The group has also begun work on the restoration of the natural orchard, which will have an added benefit of boosting local livelihoods. 1,000 fruit-bearing trees like the gag fruit will be planted and harvested, creating organic soaps and body wash. A single fruit, with the addition of other natural ingredients can be used to produce as many as 11 bars of organic soap.

In the rural province of Kanchanaburi, farming has been a way of life for centuries. But financial pressures and the need to produce high-yield crops have turned farmers to use chemical pesticides. Chemical run-off from these pesticides leaks into the natural waterways, degrading water quality.

Small grants from UNDP and MWA are working with farmers on the use of organic fertilizers through courses on how to produce their own fertilizers. As many as 260 farmers and 100 students will ultimately benefit from these trainings, and as many as 250 families will benefit from increased crop yield and improved water quality.

"We make organic pesticides by using indigenous herbal plants. These natural pesticides cut the life cycle of insects and worms, and suppresses theirs growth," said Ms. Sudarat Nilplian, of the Western Farmer's Federations Association for Development Office.

To demonstrate the benefits of organic farming, the project planted papayas and peanuts on a 2-acre plot. By the end of the grant period, UNDP and MWA aim to reduce chemical run-off in the area by as much as 50% and increase the number of organic farming plots by the same percentage. The project aims to educate as many as 80% of the areas 1,300 families.

"The quality of water resources is vital to MWA's services. This partnership will help communities to conserve water resources in the long term, with technical support from the global networks that UNDP provides," said Mr. Wisit Wongwiwat, MWA Deputy Governor for Water Production and Transmission.

"Water for People" marks the first case in UNDP's work in Thailand that the majority of project resources come from a government organization. Community-based organizations are critical because communities are often the hardest hit by environmental degradation. Small grant funded initiatives managed by these organizations provide evidence that local ownership is often the best solution to local challenges.

"Water for People" takes an already successful system and makes it even better. More than twenty agencies came together May 31 in Nan Province to brainstorm how they could strike a better balance in agricultural development over the next 10 years.