To alleviate poverty and armed conflicts in the region, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Region II, through the Community Empowerment through Science and Technology (CEST) program, partnered with the Police Regional Office 02 (PRO 02) to reach out to poor and conflict-stricken municipalities in Cagayan Valley.

CEST, one of the flagship programs of the DOST that is being implemented by all regional offices, aims to introduce technology innovations as a foundation for further development in remote areas in the region. For the Cagayan Valley region, DOST-II is carrying our various development programs and projects related, but not limited, to health and nutrition, education, disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation, and environmental protection and conservation.

This initiative also entails the provision and transfer of technology-based livelihood projects to the identified communities specifically in Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Areas (GIDA) and the marginalized sectors that include farmers, fisherfolks, indigenous people, and women’s groups.

In Cagayan, DOST-II recently funded projects amounting to P1M in three identified CEST areas, namely: Sitio Lagum and Sta. Felicitas in Sto. Nino and Cabuluan in Alcala.

Reaching out to isolated communities in Cagayan Sitio Lagum is situated in the mountainous Barangay of Lipatan, Sto. Nino, Cagayan. It is one of the most isolated sitios and accessible by a 3-hour walk across water and land. Because of this, it is more challenging for people to reach it because roads are unpaved and become impassable during the rainy season.

Additionally, 56 households in the community do not have access to electricity and potable water supply. The residents still need to fetch water from the mountain and use pieces of cloth as their water filter.

The economic activities in the area are also severely restricted due to lack of expertise and skill, absence of equipment and infrastructure, limited access to markets, and exposure to natural hazards such as landslides and flooding.

CEST focal person Rowena Guzman said that, “there is more to mountains than climbing to the top, there is still life across the river and there is still hope even in the farthest and most isolated places in the region. So, we should maximize government efforts to support them.”

DOST-II, in partnership with the Cagayan Police Provincial Office (CPPO), provided water distribution system from the mountain going to their households with the use of pipelines that eventually lessened their burden. The community will also be given solar panels with complete sets of battery and inverter for the electricity.

Moreover, residents who are not capable of sending their children to school sometimes join armed groups that results in more poverty incidences and more conflicts in the area. Because of this, the DOST had planned to conduct S&T training to prevent this situation.

To supplement the need for educational tools, the DOST-II will also make S&T available to them through the Science and Technology Research-Based Openly-Operated KioskS (STARBOOKS) that can be operated even without Internet connectivity.

This will provide reliable and free science and technology (S&T) information to the public in an offline mode. It includes books, journals, researches, and other learning materials, including livelihood videos that will help the children, teachers, and the community develop and enhance their S&T knowledge.

Another community included under CEST is Barangay of Sta. Felicitas in Sto. Nino, Cagayan.

The main problem in the community is the access to clean and potable drinking water. Their main source of water is through the use of deep wells.

During the months of April – June, their water supply could dry up without warning due to drought. It is also not safe for them to drink the water from the wells because of the presence of mud and other microorganisms.

Ronnie Nacional, a Barangay Kagawad in the community said that the water they get from the well is not safe for drinking especially during typhoons. It is also hard for them to travel and buy drinking water because their barangay is located in the middle of a river.

He also lamented that with this difficult situation, they would not allow their children to get sick just by drinking the water that comes from the well.

To improve their access to quality drinking water, DOST-II conducted site assessment and community project inception meeting last 07 July 07 2021 for the implementation of the Potable Water System project under the CEST program. This intervention will benefit around 130 families.

DOST-II will also ensure the sustainability of the project through a package of training for the maintenance of the equipment and the facility that forms part of the technology intervention in the community.

Teachers in the barangay will also be linked to the STARBOOKS online training conducted by DOST-II that will help them upgrade their S&T knowledge and instructional materials.

Also expected to benefit from the CEST program in Cagayan is Barangay Cabuluan in the Municipality of Alcala.

DOST-II, with the help of the CPPO, conducted livelihood training and demonstrated the production of dishwashing liquid, powder detergent, and hand sanitizer in line with the CEST program. This is seen to help the community prevent and reduce the spread of COVID-19 virus. The DOST-II funded the implementation and the establishment of these income-generating livelihood projects in the community.

Part of the project focuses on the livestock and poultry production to help the farmers and the community recover from the loss of jobs and unemployment due to the Covid-19 pandemic and those whose poultry stocks were adversely affected due to bird flu.

DOST-II has committed to continue providing them with appropriate S&T training that will also assure the maintenance and sustainability of the intervention so that the community would surpass the change in climate conditions during the driest or wettest days.

In attaining inclusive and sustainable peace, and in support of the government’s efforts to end local insurgency and armed conflict in the country, DOST-II will continue to introduce high impacts projects on poverty reduction and livelihood development.

DOST with the help of the CEST program will further continue to build empowered, progressive, and resilient communities in Cagayan Valley. (DOST S&T PEN- Dave Masirag)