Erning Story: Finally, water for our farmlands!

“Finally, water for our farmlands!”

This is what Jasmine,14, exclaimed when the irrigation construction was finished. “My father helped build that irrigation,” she proudly shares, pointing at the communal irrigation system standing in front of their house.

“When it was finished, we climbed the top of it and played in the water ,” Jasmine says, referring to the green-paintedpool-like structure  that has a depth of more than 5 feet “But we only did it once. It was dangerous.”

“That’s why I remove the ladder at the side so no children will climb,” Jasmine’s father, Efren, adds. Efren, 57, is also one of the caretakers of the irrigation.

Jasmine lives in an agricultural town in Batangas where most farmlands are rain-fed or relying mostly in rain to water hectares of farms.

Her father, Efren, has a land that he used to plant with rice. Due to problem with water, he abandoned the land and instead worked as welder. “Now that we have irrigation, I’m thinking of planting rice again,” he quips, looking at the idle lot behind their house. Weeds now thrive in the unused farmland.

From afar, a group of farmers are already harvesting — their faces covered with oversized hats. Efren continues, “With this irrigation, we can now harvest thrice a year.” Without irrigation, the people can only harvest once a year.

“Most of us here use our harvest for personal consumption. No, no! We don’t sell our produce. The harvest is too little to be sold — only a couple of sacks. But, I guess, that would change now. If we harvest three times a year, we can sell some and earn income that we can use for our family and children’s needs,” Efren says. “I’m really thankful to Kuya Erning for pushing for this.” (Editor’s note: Kuya is a Filipino term of respect to an older man and person of authority.)

 

A legacy

Ernesto Tobeo or Erning, 71, is the man behind the completed irrigation. A farmer himself, Erning noticed the difficulty their village faced in getting good harvest.

“We are rich in lands but poor in water. We cannot grow much products because there is not enough water for the farms,” he says.

World Vision has been working in Erning’s village for 10 years, providing educational support to children and livelihood assistance to parents. Being a government worker, Erning raised his irrigation concern to World Vision staff years back.  In response, the organization encouraged Erning to advocate for their community and supported him throughout the process.

“We started by holding several meetings with the farmers. We agreed on what help we needed Then, together with a World Vision staff, I went to Manila to talk to NIA [National Irrigation Authority] for the possibility of setting up an irrigation system. That was 10 years ago. I almost forgot about it. Then around 2018-2019, some government officials came to my house telling me that my proposal has been approved. I was ecstatic and excited!” Erning shares.

Soon, the construction of the irrigation began. Farmers assisted in any way they can. A year after, one irrigation was finished and tested. “Did I mention that our irrigation is solar-powered?” Erning shares, proudly showing the huge green irrigation. Water can be heard rushing from metal pipes. Protecting the irrigation is a roof tiled with solar panels. “One of these costs millions,” he adds.

The irrigation benefits 68 farming families, most of which are also supported by World Vision. Two more irrigation outlets are being constructed in other areas within the village.

Erning rested his back on the wooden chair that he borrowed from Efren. His face filled with creases, a result of old age, yet his eyes smile, proud of what he’s done. “I have always dreamed of helping the farmers. I am a farmer, too. I know how difficult their lives are. Most of us grew up together. This irrigation is probably the best legacy I can leave to my children and the other farmers’ children,” he says.