SEVERAL youth volunteers took on the challenge of saving the dying Maningning Creek in Taytay, Rizal and in so doing have inspired other communities to emulate their initiative.
The three-kilometer Maningning Creek traverses four villages in Taytay, and once served as the people’s source of food and livelihood as well as a place for recreational activities.
The creek was teeming with life as carp, mudfish, tilapia and other marine species provided the residents with an easy source of food, but Maningning (literally “bright”) deteriorated after people started dumping garbage on it.
In 2009, when the floods brought by Typhoon Ondoy (internationally name Ketsana) ravaged the town, a group of young people noticed Maningning’s state of decline and decided to turn things around.
“After Typhoon Ondoy, we realized how big a problem flooding is in Taytay. We knew we had to do something about it,” said Tobit Cruz, co-founder of youth volunteer group Angat Kabataan.
“We looked at the different waterways of the province and saw that Maningning Creek was in dire need of rehabilitation” he added.
Angat Kabataan had only four volunteers at the start, all below 25 years old, but they immediately went to work, clearing the area, planting bamboo trees and using bokashi balls to treat wastewater—the term bokashi refers to the Japanese way of composting.
Mobilizing the community
Cruz recounted how impassioned they were to take on the task of restoring Maningning, only to be overwhelmed by everything that needed to be done.
Ironically, he said their greatest challenge was getting the support of the community, as many felt that Maningning Creek was beyond repair.
When Angat Kabataan gained a few more volunteers, they decided to start a campaign to get different sectors of society involved.
Support for the youth’s initiative both from residents and non-residents, and public and private groups soon came and the state of Maningning Creek began to improve.
“Beyond the visible physical improvements of the creek, we consider getting everyone involved as our biggest achievement,” Cruz noted.
“Now, you can see that each household has its own set of cleaning materials and the community holds cleanup sessions voluntarily” he said.
Angat Kabataan also maintains livelihood projects, including a 1-kilometer vegetable garden along the creek and the production of Bokashi balls, which are used to treat the creek’s dirty water.
These projects employ barangay residents, including 15 mothers who make the Bokashi balls from clay, fermented rice bran and molasses.
The balls contain microorganisms that break down sludge. Angat Kabataan also markets this technology for profit and the income goes straight to the barangay.
Cruz shares that they are now looking at adopting more creeks in Rizal province and possibly in Mindanao.
The group recently won a $10,000 grant and gained partners from member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) who committed to help them rehabilitate creeks.
The success of Angat Kabataan’s model is also now being adopted in Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, and Vietnam.
“Given the right support of different stakeholders, young people can really bring about positive impact in terms of community development,” Cruz said.