Tag Archives: research topic

Competing for Water in Nangalao Island

One of the critical environmental issues that hound small islands is water scarcity. However, not only is the water scarce in such locations but also difficult to access, owing not only to environmental factors but also the attitude of people living on those islands. The experience of a community of fishers living in Nangalao Island is a case in point. 

Impact Assessment

On April 30, 2013, I was one of a composite team of field workers who visited the island of Nangalao, about an hour boat ride from San Miguel poblacion in the municipality of Linapacan in Palawan Province. When the 20-passenger outrigger boat hit the shallows, we have to transfer to a smaller boat towed to the beach by a local fisher until we can step out right to the sand and avoid getting wet.

We have to duck through ropes and wires strung across rows of randomly built houses which occupy most of the beach front. The local government has no zoning scheme so the buildings and houses were in disarray. We have to snake our way through to get to the barangay hall.

My main concern in visiting the place was to assess the impact of a foundation’s various programs implemented in the community for the past six years. The main goal of those programs is to help uplift the living condition of the marginalized fisherfolks whose fishing activities have been affected by the operation of a natural gas project.

What caught my attention was a lady carrying a pail of water across the basketball court, in such a hurry and in an attempt to avoid bumping into teenagers playing on one side of the court.  Thereafter, I saw another group of people carrying plastic containers from the same place the lady appeared. Obviously, they were fetching water from a nearby source.

Network of Water Pipes

This observation puzzled me because I have seen a network of large, black PVC water pipes at the left side of the barangay hall. I asked one of the local government officials to verify if indeed those pipes were intended to distribute water. As expected, he affirmed but noted that those pipes were empty because water flow from source was so weak to fill those pipes for household use.

I thought I would visit the water source to confirm. I asked for a guide to accompany me to the site, which, I discovered, lies two kilometers away.

Water availability is a very important factor to consider when evaluating the productivity of communities. Without water, it will be difficult for people to grow crops and of course, drink clean water to quench their thirst, among other household requirements. How can life be sustained without water?

Thus, I decided to walk all the way to the water source located uphill. That will also be good exercise for me after a few days out of my regular running routine.

The Water Source

The residents obtained water from two sources: one located about a kilometer away from the main cluster of houses, and the other nestled almost on top of a barren hill. My guide, together with another field worker, climbed up the rugged and steep hill devoid of vegetation. A recent fire razed dry cogon grasses (Imperata cylindrica) including a section of the PVC pipes which once funneled water downhill.

What we saw was a surprising, and pitiful scene. Young boys wait patiently for their turn to fill small water containers, with just a stream of water akin to that of a urinating animal. What can you expect in a bald mountain with rocky substrate that cannot hold much water?

scarce water
Boys patiently wait for their water containers to fill at the main water source in Nangalao.

Quarrel on Water Use

We saw a round, cement cistern located a few meters from the fetching area. I climbed by the side wanting to know how much water was in store. I saw the same stream of water from another pipe embedded on the side of the hill barely kept up with water drawn from it.

During rainy days, local folks say the cistern is almost full. Then I said, they don’t need to walk all the way then to the main source.

At that point, the guide told me that this was the situation before. The water pipes had already supplied the water needs of the underlying houses several years back. But residents living next to pipes in the upper elevations diverted the flowing water into their farms. They punched holes in the exposed plastic tubes and got the water for free. As a result, very little water trickled down the line. There were altercations between affected parties. Ultimately, the barangay chairman decided to stop operating the local government’s water services.

Now, everyone took the brunt of the decision. Not only is the water scarce but a natural resource of contention. Access to it is difficult and time consuming (see Opportunity Cost).

If you are a consultant for community development, what would you recommend?

© 2013 July 13 P. A. Regoniel

Household Adaptation to Climate Change in the Philippines

How do marginalized people living in vulnerable coastal communities adapt to the effects of climate change such as sea level rise? What is an example of this adaptation at the household level? The following article describes one of these interesting adaptations and its implications.

One of the interesting aspects of research is discovering something new. Although a phenomenon has been there for a long time, it becomes a relevant point of interest once its occurrence is viewed more keenly and becomes a subject of discussion.

Take for instance the cross-country research our group conducted last year in the coastal areas of the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam to document the effects of climate change. One of those inquired in the investigation looked into the adaptation of marginalized fisherfolks to the hazards brought about by typhoon/flooding, coastal erosion and saltwater intrusion.

What I found interesting in this climate change study are the unique ways by which marginalized people try to cope up with changes in their environment. In this particular case that we studied, the fisherfolks’ adaptation to the erosive effects of waves in the gradually advancing seawater was investigated.

We visited three communities (locally called barangays) to find out if there are any signs of initiatives to mitigate the effects of sea level rise. There, indeed, are several interesting adaptations made by fishermen in the tropical regions such as the Philippines. I relate one below.

Household Adaptation to Sea Level Rise

Below is a picture of a household adaptation in response to rising sea levels that erodes the thin strip of land a few hundred meters wide. A series of temporary and permanent houses dot this habitable portion that lies between the sea and the concrete highway running along the irregular coastline.

adaptation to sea level rise
A makeshift structure built of logs, bamboo slats, stones and sand in Binduyan, Puerto Princesa as household adaptation to mitigate the erosive impact of advancing seawater.

I noticed this ingenious way to keep soil from eroding in the beach of Binduyan, a coastal community lying east of Puerto Princesa in the island of Palawan in the Philippines. It may be a common sight to the uninitiated, but to someone who does research this means a lot.

What were the costs involved?

If you will imagine the time, money (although these materials may have been sourced around) and effort devoted by the person to construct this structure, you will be able to appreciate the significance of this adaptation to the life of the builder. Since we are after economic analysis of household adaptations like this, questions like the following arise in my mind:

  • How many people were involved in constructing the makeshift seawall?
  • How much time did it take them to build such structure?
  • What opportunities did they lose as a consequence of working on the structure (see opportunity cost to understand how important this concept is)?
  • What benefits were gained?
  • Did the benefits justify the cost of construction or was it just a waste of time?

Why would this family go to lengths in constructing this makeshift structure made of local materials? It’s unfortunate nobody was there to ask when we passed through as we walked the beach and note down observations. The owners were out somewhere, probably fishing. But these questions helped us design our questionnaire as this visit was part of our scoping activity.

We measured the height of the whole structure. It is 1.2 meters in height! Did seawater rise that high? How many years did it take to reach that level? What is the distance of the water’s edge at high tide from this house since people living in the area took notice of the rising waters?

Questions Lead to Discovery and Informed Actions

Many questions arise as a result of this simple observation. And these questions will propel you to undertake research focused on your specific concern to contribute to the body of knowledge. That, of course, requires publishing your work for others to learn from. Research findings mean nothing if left unpublished.

You may download and read the results of the study I mentioned above from the WorldFish website. It is titled “Economic Analysis of Climate Change Adaptation Strategies in Selected Coastal Areas in Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam.” It is hoped that the findings of this research will aid policy makers in coming up with actions to mitigate the effects of climate change thus reduce costly damage to vulnerable coastal communities.

© 2013 June 30 P. A. Regoniel

Defining A Research Topic For Your Thesis

Defining a research topic can be a difficult undertaking for a beginning researcher. How will you come up with a good research topic for your thesis? The article below provides five helpful tips. 

As most post-graduates would agree, deciding on your topic for your thesis paper is not as easy as it sounds. While you may have a general idea of the direction you want to go, and may even have the general topic chosen, defining that topic into an actionable research paper can be difficult. Considering the fact that this paper is an essential part of completing your academic career and that it can affect your future job prospects, it is important to come up with a research topic that is both interesting and achievable for you. Consider these tips:

Use Your Interests

Considering the amount of time that will be dedicated to this paper, the topic should be something that is not only of interest to you, but hopefully something you are passionate about. Having some knowledge going into the research puts you at an advantage, instead of having to start from scratch.

Research topic that is achievable

Picking a topic that is so unique that it becomes almost impossible to finish in the time period required is unwise. Consider the time that will be needed to do the research on a specific topic and come to a conclusion. There may be a reason that there are few thesis papers written on certain topics; they may be too laborious or do not have enough supporting data to complete.

Check literary sources

To determine whether a topic is a good fit for you, do some research on what literary sources are available. Too many resources may mean the topic has been used abundantly, while too few may make it difficult to do research in the time allotted.

Start with “Why” and go from there

Keep in mind that thesis topics are not facts nor are they opinions. They are explorations into the “why” of something. Finding the perfect topic will come to you when you find an intriguing question that needs a detailed answer, one that you have been wondering about yourself.

Ask advisors and professors

Discuss your search with your advisors and professors to get their input. They can provide you with ideas and direction, although the final definition will always be up to you.

The exploration for a thesis topic can be frustrating, however, by looking at all the angles ahead of time you can save yourself from even further frustration down the road. Consider it similar to doing international background checks before hiring a personal assistant that you need to trust and rely on for years. By taking the time to choose the correct topic that will interest you, has sufficient data available and will make an impact, you will save yourself from disappointment and unwanted surprises a year or more down the line.