event 16 Feb 2017

The energy and water nexus for off-grid communities in the Philippines and Southeast Asia

Water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), energy, and agriculture are topics of great importance to every rural community. In Southeast Asia, these issues overlap in many remote villages where lack of access to energy is often coupled with lack of access to clean drinking water or water for sanitation or agriculture. This report summarises the information presented at, and conclusions arising from, the workshop on issues related to energy, water, and food for rural communities held by the Philippines Center for Water and Sanitation (PCWS) and the Smart Villages Initiative.

category Research Papers, Publications and Books
Cover smart villages water energy nexus
The workshop took place at the northern end of Luzon in Burgos, Ilocos Norte in the Philippines. It was part of an on-going programme of engagement by the Smart Villages Initiative in Southeast Asia. It brought together a diverse group of around 28 people working on WASH, energy, and agriculture in off-grid villages in Southeast Asia to review their experiences to date and to identify barriers to further progress and how they may be overcome The workshop was held over three days, from 1-3 June 2016. The first day consisted of a field trip to the Energy Development Corporation’s wind and solar plants to gain insight into a renewable energy project connected to water and agricultural in the Philippines. The second day consisted of presentations from 11 people, beginning with an introduction to the Smart Villages Initiative and PCWS. There were presentations on WASH initiatives in the Philippines, renewable energy and rural energy development in the Philippines. Moreover, there were presentations on wide-ranging topics including off-grid agriculture, research methods for the energy-water-food nexus, and studies of gender in rural electrification. The day ended with a discussion of some key questions for the communities. Day three consisted of a final in-depth discussion of messages to send to policy makers and the energy, water, and food communities working in off-grid rural areas.

Key Findings

  1. Improved WASH practices can contribute to environmental conservation, community resilience, and enhanced livelihood opportunities, all of which can help alleviate poverty.
  2. Combining energy and WASH rural development initiatives is an important aspect of development that needs to be further encouraged in Southeast Asia. Concrete examples of infrastructure can be a means of encouraging the energy and water communities to work together—such as biogas digesters running on human and animal waste and electric water pumps. This could also help raise the profile of rural WASH activities that need to attract more attention to secure funding.
  3. In the Philippines, there are many fragmented initiatives from government; many different departments work on overlapping remits in energy and water. Efforts should be made to combine, and communicate between, these different initiatives.
  4. Systems of water, energy, and food should be researched with multiple methods of nexus thinking, and policy decisions and interventions should be made that bear in mind trade-offs and complementarities in the different systems.
  5. Demonstration projects that deal with both energy and water in rural villages, and which integrate social infrastructures, are needed to promote more widespread adoption of good practices in development and holistic development outcomes.
  6. There should be more support for low-cost technologies and solutions, perhaps by encouraging universities and NGOs to work together, and by encouraging innovative community-based research, ideas and analysis that would benefit the poorest. The best solutions, particularly for low-income families with limited resources, should be piloted and scaled up, and awareness of innovative, affordable technologies should be raised.
  7. In the Philippines, local governments should administer the provision of energy and water, and should ensure that enabling local policies are in place. The barangays should be coordinating places for rural development and collaborations across different energy and WASH communities.
  8. The role of women and children in providing and maintaining WASH and energy services is very important, and efforts should be made to increase women’s participation in community-level decision-making and labour related to rural infrastructure.
  9. Revenue streams for maintaining WASH activities must be calibrated to individual contexts. Ideally, revenues should be raised from villagers to cover at least the maintenance costs of a water supply system. If water is given for free, due to villagers’ inability to pay, there must be some means other than tariffs to control villagers’ water management behaviour.
  10. There needs to be an increased effort in fostering much higher frequencies of water quality monitoring checks in rural areas through new low-cost measurement technologies, government support, and public awareness raising.


Smart Villages website


June 2016


Smart Villages

The Smart Villages initiative is being funded by the Cambridge Malaysian Education and Development Trust (CMEDT) and the Malaysian Commonwealth Studies Centre (MCSC) and through a grant from the Templeton World Charity Foundation (TWCF). The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Cambridge Malaysian Education and Development Trust or the Templeton World Charity Foundation.

Philippines Center for Water and Sanitation (PCWS)

PCWS used to be known as International Training Network (ITN) when it started in 1990 as a project of the Netherlands-based International Institute of Infrastructure, Hydraulics and Environmental Engineering (IHE). From 1990 to 1998 ITN was funded by the Dutch Government. In 1998, the remaining personnel decided to register as a nongovernment organization (NGO) with the Securities and Exchange Commission as Philippine Center for Water and Sanitation – The ITN Foundation. Since 1998, PCWS has been supporting itself through its professional fees obtained through training, technical support, research and consultancy services provided to local governments, NGOs, national government agencies, corporations, and communities.


Workshop Report 21

Cecilia Vey


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