#IdeasPositiveRun5: Changing Mindsets - from Waste to Wellness
Team Huhu is on the fourth month of their six-month project implementation. More than the installment of digesters in the community, it’s what they were able to instill in the minds of the community members that will truly make the difference.
“Madami nang dumating na ganyan dati. Pero hindi naman napakinabangan.”
These are the strong words of Mang James Balisong a father of two and a resident of Brgy. San Vicente in Baguio City. “Eh paano, basta na lang iniwan dito. Hindi naman ipinaliwanag kung paano gamitin,” Mang James recalls, with a hint of disappointment and frustration.
No one can blame Mang James, the biggest backyard hog farmer in the barangay, for his skepticism and doubt. After all, this isn’t the first time that a group visited his barangay and introduced a technology to address health problems. His reaction is common to members of communities who’ve seen too many interventions fail, and met too many groups who leave the community after photo ops.
That day, another group was visiting San Vicente - Team Huhu, a group of students from St. Louis University composed of Arianne Stephanie Calera, Darryn Bartolome, Frances Bengwayan, Nathazha Grace Franco and Valerie Tumaliuan. The team was demonstrating how a biogas digester, a simple system that produces biogas by decomposing organic materials, works. And this time, Mang James was neither skeptical nor doubtful; he was interested and supportive.
The demonstration is part of the implementation of Team Huhu’s project, “Hog Wastes: Tool for Energy and Regreenery,” which aims to reduce the cases of respiratory ailments, such as upper respiratory tract infection. Among the top ailments afflicting San Vicente since 2010, these are caused by air contaminated with fumes from backyard hog farms, the source of livelihood for 80% of households in the barangay.
“Nandito kami para tulungan sila na magkaraoon ng sistema yung pagtapon ng hogwaste,” says Arianne. “Para hindi na nila kailangan magtapon sa kanal.”
With biogas digesters, the hog waste that produces disease-causing ammonia is processed and turned into methane. Each digester can hold and process as much as 430 gallons of hog waste.
Not only will this technology manage hog waste in the barangay, the methane produced by the digester can also be used as fuel, able to cook small amounts of food such as noodles and rice.
The technology itself is not new. Biogas digesters have been used in many communities all over the country, even in Baguio City itself. But the team’s positive idea went beyond the technology, and focused on ensuring that the technology is understood, properly used, and taken care of by the community.
To explain the technology, they tapped the expertise of the City Environment and Parks Management Office (CEPMO), who has been implementing the use of biogas digesters in other parts of Baguio. They secured the barangay officials’ involvement by having them sponsor one biogas digester to demonstrate and use it in the community. They went house to house to educate the residents on the health benefits of proper waste management, and how the digesters can help achieve that.
The biogas digesters are not free; each unit costs around Php12,000. Hog farmers who choose to get a digester will be taught how to make and operate it.
“Nandito lang kami para tumulong sa community at sa mga bata. Dapat ituloy-tuloy lang nila ang project na ito,” says Engr. Moises Lozano of CEPMO, who commits that his office will be available to give consultations to the backyard hog farmers.
Many residents have already expressed interest in the digesters, including Mang James, who attests that this time, the intervention is really different.
“Ngayon naiintindihan namin iyang biogas at paano gamitin. Yung mga studyanteng nagpunta sa amin, pinaliwanag talaga nila. Nagpapa-salamat talaga kami sa kanila,” says Mang James.
Team Huhu is on the fourth month of their six-month project implementation. More than the installment of digesters in the community, it’s what they were able to instill in the minds of the community members that will truly make the difference. The real gift is in showing how interventions, if done properly, can actually help the community; how so much more can be achieved when people work together; and how unhealthy conditions people live in doesn’t have to be their accepted realities.
All it takes is a positive idea.
This article is part of the #IdeasPositiveRun5 series, which documents the transformation of 14 communities through innovative ideas of 14 youth teams. Follow their story as they build a healthier Philippines, one community at a time! Visit the Ideas Positive official Facebook page.