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The informal settlement at Matina Crossing in Davao City, The Philippines is crisscrossed by a river and mainly accessed by some rickety makeshift bridges. In November 2009, Matina Federation representing four communities of around 488 families from the settlement joined the Homeless Peoples' Federation Philippines Inc., a nation-wide savings federation mainly driven by women from urban poor communities.
In February 2010, Matina Fed hosts a design workshop involving community architects' group from Southeast Asia region, including Sahabat Bambu from Indonesia. Bamboo technologies were explored and considered in upgrading one of community's existing bridge. In the following months the community continue its saving activities while planning and scheduling for their bridge upgrading project. Foundation work began in November, during monsoon. The volatile Matina river immediately shown the difficulties of constructing intermediate columns. Since then, it was decided to go for a free-span bridge design, 23 meter span using local bamboo species Dendrocalamus asper.
At the beginning of 2011 the bamboo culms were harvested from city out-skirt, hauled, and treated on-site to resist pests. In April, two traditional bamboo carpenters from Indonesia led the construction process that is involving volunteers from community. In one month the whole bamboo structure with bolts-and-nuts joints was completed. Cement grout injected to the primary bamboo joints, thatch roof and four-inch thick reinforced concrete floor laid to make the bridge stable and "permanent." By the end of May the bridge was completed with cost of ca. USD 10,000 in form of a community loan facilitated by the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights.
The bamboo footbridge project was carried with full participation of community, from initiation, to planning, to implementation. It fulfils the immediate need of access and, at the same time, fosters togetherness among community members, strenghten the communities in their appeal for land security.
While many still see slums as a problem of urban areas of the South, the Matina communities in Davao City with their bamboo footbridge initiative has shown that slum communities are capable of offering a solution, given a chance to organize themselves and to access suitable finance and technologies.
Bamboo construction technologies has been significantly improved during the last three decades, especially in Colombia. But, the fruits hardly reached those really in need; poor communities with native bamboo in countries along the "bamboo belt" around the equator. Today, ease of communication and transport allows this global transfer and exchange of ideas to take place.
On 27 June 2011 a huge flash flood hit the area, carried debris which battered the new bamboo footbridge. The bridge survives and serves as the main platform for safety, from evacuation until emergency response and aid delivery. A flood that was unprecedented in scale indicates some change in the local environment; deforestation and development of the upper area. Hence, the community footbridge is a reminder, an example of a sustainable development.