The Alternative Indigenous Development Foundation, Inc., or AIDFI in brevity, was the brainchild of four (4) persons who rose from the ranks of the National Federation of sugar workers (NFSW), a labor organization that focuses in organizing and educating the sugar workers. It was in the heap of the sugar industry downfall and crisis in Negros.
The union went from a farm lot program into the new land reform program and considering its nature of organizing and educating, this program became too big for the union. The four persons wanted to focus on providing basic services to agrarian reform communities through appropriate technologies and agricultural services and therefore started AIDFI as a Non-Government Organization (NGO). AIDFI was established and registered as a NGO on July 4, 1992 with registration no. ENO92000214 at the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC).
The need in the agrarian reform communities was huge since most land reformed areas were situated in mountainous areas, far from government services. Most basic services were absent. AIDFI went into many different programs and projects like: organizational support, agricultural support (seeds, fertilizer and carabao dispersal), sanitation (latrine construction), health (homeopathic medicine making) and day care.
After realizing that production needs marketing as well, AIDFI went into buying and selling of crops produced in the partner associations, like bananas (Balangon) and different root crops. This went on for several years but was very hard to sustain.
Focus on Technology
Simultaneously with the start of working in and with agrarian reform communities, AIDFI researched, developed, manufactured and piloted Appropriate Technologies for basic needs: water (different pumps for drinking and irrigation), energy (biogas, hydro and wind), sanitation (latrines) and agricultural equipment’s.
In order to survive without outside funding, AIDFI staff engaged in welding jobs, like steel trusses and gates and even did a complete truck repair for another NGO. In the meantime, contacts were established with small groups and donors. This resulted in some small projects.
Having had previous experience and experiments with a hydraulic ram pump made from concrete on a technical university in Holland, one of the founders introduced the technology to AIDFI. This would become the flagship technology of the Foundation. But it would take development of different models, numerous tests and installations in the field, promotion and marketing for the technology to become known.
Having no budgets AIDFI started in a small rented storage place (around 20 m2) with outside an old roofed open garage which was used as workshop. In 1998 AIDFI constructed its own building (more like a two-story house) with the lower part as workshop.
After that AIDFI concentrated on promoting its technologies and more and more interest was generated, especially for the ram pump. In the same time AIDFI started full-time Research and Development with as result that AIDFI had some 15 technologies ready for fabrication.
In 2004, AIDFI was looking deeper into the problem of the bulky loads of farm products sold at the conventional markets since it was not a sustainable undertaking for both farmers as well as AIDFI. The idea was to find products which could be processed in the community from high volume-low value to low volume-high value. It became essential oil from Lemongrass and the R&D group developed a distiller. Then AIDFI organized some 30 farmers around this concept in the uplands of Brgy. Mambugsay, Cauayan, Negros Occidental into the Mambugsay Essential Oil Producers Association (MEOPA). In 2011 three more communities got into Lemongrass Oil production.
International Recognition and Expansion
The awards with documentaries on the internet resulted again in more interest internationally and AIDFI was internally ready to carry our technology transfer of the ram pump. That has now been carried out to Afghanistan, Nepal, Colombia and Mexico. Also, several units were either installed by AIDFI or just sent to Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Colombia, Peru, Costa Rica, France, Cameroon and lately Mozambique.
The work of AIDFI in terms of technologies kept expanding. In 2006 it bought a 3000m2 lot and put up an office with a 300m2 shop. The building includes a coffee shop serving its staff and outside customers and serves as Income Generating Project. A year later a Techno Park was established at the back of the garden and all technologies were incorporated in the mini park and had at its height some 4000 visitors a year. The Park created a lot of interest and became a luxury problem in terms of work.
After winning the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2011 AIDFI was asked by Coca Cola Foundation Philippines, Inc to help them in their program to meet their international target of returning the water they use to communities. This program is now completely managed by AIDFI and in its 5th year with an average of at least 20 water systems using hydraulic ram pumps supplying drinking water to mostly upland communities. At the end of 2016 already some 123.000 beneficiaries were served with easy access to water.
In 2016, AIDFI started using it newly built shop of 325m2, making the total area now 625m2. It contains many machines from welding, drilling, CAD plasma cutting, lathing, bending to milling. AIDFI produces now quality ram pumps in ten sizes and can do that in quantity as well. Besides fabrication and installation by its own technicians, it trained other teams in the Philippines which are now installing the AIDFI ram pump model. In 2017 AIDFI started fabricating its first plastic shredder and injection molding. The idea is to use this for recycling of plastic caps into gaskets for the ram pump and to sell other units to recycling projects in any part of the country.
AIDFI also owns two cars and four trucks for the transportation of materials and ram pumps throughout the Philippines.
The essential oil program has become sustainable for both beneficiaries as well as AIDFI. The AIDFI building contains a lab for the processing and packing of the oils for shipment to its varied clients. There are now plans for diversification from only Lemongrass to other plants for which there is a market for its oil.