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DSWD's Project LAWA: Combating El Niño, creating jobs

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) launched on August 31 the Local Adaptation on Water Access or ‘Project LAWA’ to prepare communities on the possible scarcity of water due to the El Niño phenomenon.

According to the Climate Outlook from the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), El Niño is already present in the tropical Pacific including the Philippines, and will persist until the first quarter of 2024.

The outlook also shows that the phenomenon manifests signs of strengthening in the coming months, with most of the provinces in the Philippines to have below normal rainfall in November 2023.

Beneficiaries dig up at the proposed water reservoir site in Monkayo, Davao de Oro, as part of the ceremonial launching of Project LAWA (Local Adaptation on Water Access) on August 31, 2023. A total of small farm reservoirs will be built in Monkayo as one of the pilot areas of the project.

Lawyer Vanessa Goc-ong, regional director of DSWD XI, emphasized that this lurking disaster has prompted the agency to develop Project LAWA.

This is a sustainable solution and intervention to alleviate the challenges faced by the communities during periods of severe drought conditions, leading to water scarcity.

Under Project LAWA, small farm reservoirs will be built in strategic areas in the chosen towns, which will be utilized by the communities during the drought or dry spell.

Director Goc-ong said that the reservoirs will now be used not for drinking but  will serve as water sources for plants, animals, and other daily needs.


Project LAWA will be piloted in three provinces – Ifugao for Luzon, Antique for Visayas, and Davao de Oro for Mindanao.

Director Goc-ong stressed that the pilot areas were chosen based on the severity of impact brought by the incoming drought. 

The identified towns are Alfonso, Aguinaldo, and Hungduan for Ifugao;  Sebaste, Barbaza, and Sibalom for Antique; and Monkayo, Compostela and Laak for Davao de Oro.

Representative Maricar Zamora of the First Congressional District of the province expressed her gratitude to DSWD for choosing Davao de Oro as one of the pilot areas for Project LAWA.

“This will again not only help provide additional income for our poor, vulnerable, and marginalized families but will also build community water ponds that are vital for sustaining economic activities of the community,” Zamora said.

In Monkayo where the project was launched, 10 small farm reservoirs will be established in barangays Inambatan, Olaycon, Salvacion, Tubo-tubo, Naboc, Union, and Maite-Poblacion.

According to the data from the Municipal Agriculture Office of Monkayo, these reservoirs will supply water during the El Niño phenomenon to cover, among others, the needs of 6,642 hectares of farmland in the town.

This includes 1,100 hectares of rice fields and 1,200 hectares of corn fields.

Apart from sustained agricultural production, Monkayo Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Officer Evelyn Tolentino said that reservoirs will also ensure continued services in the town’s plant nurseries.

Officials took up pick axes as part of the ceremonial launching of Project LAWA (Local Adaptation on Water Access) on August 31, 2023.


During the launch, the DSWD, Department of Agriculture (DA), United Nations - World Food Program (UN-WFP), and local government units formalized their commitment through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding for the Project LAWA implementation.

Each reservoir will be constructed within a 20 by 25-square meter area with a maximum depth of 50 feet. Furthermore, the UN-WFP contributed tools worth approximately P250,000, including shovels, pickaxes, galvanized iron buckets, gloves, and paddy boots, to support stakeholders involved in the construction. Local government units will subsequently identify the specific locations for the reservoir development.

Officials of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), United Nations - World Food Program (UN-WFP), Department of Agriculture (DA), and local government units signed on August 31, a Memorandum of Agreement for the implementation of Local Adaptation on Water Access or Project LAWA as preventive measures against the effects of El Nino phenomenon.


The DSWD will collaborate with the respective local government units in employing 50 individuals to build each reservoir for 15 days. These workers will receive a daily wage of P443, amounting to a total of P6,645 for the entire project duration. Priority for employment will be given to individuals on the Listahanan, members of farmer associations, beneficiaries of the Sustainable Livelihood Program and Risk Resiliency Program, and other vulnerable sectors affected by El Niño.

Edmund Lawian, 68 years old, one of the target beneficiaries, expressed his gratitude to the government as the salary will help his family in their daily expenses, especially in the studies of their children.

“Pasalamat ko nga naka apil ko dinhi kay naa koy estudyante; tabangan nako siya para makalampos sa iyang kurso (I am thankful that I was included here because I have a student; I will help him finish his studies),” he said. (MLU/PIA Davao de Oro) 

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Michael Uy

Regional Editor / Writer

Region 11

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