Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Albay’s rice granary gets boost from “hanging irrigation” structures '
By Rhaydz B. Barcia

LIGAO CITY, Albay, Sept. 27, (PNA) -- Even with dry spells, rice lands in the northwestern part of Albay and some municipalities in the southwestern side are being fed with irrigation water.

Credit goes to the unique “hanging irrigation” structure called “flume” that was built to help boost rice production in farmlands in these areas.

According to Ed Yu, spokesman of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) in Bicol, a flume is an elevated canal used as a foot bridge to convey water from its source.

“Flume allows the flow of water from the source to another end to distribute water and irrigate waterless rice fields,” he said.

In remote Binatagan village, some 15 kilometers away from Ligao City proper, the flume conveys water over the bridge to provide irrigation to vast tracts of rice fields that were formerly idle lands.

Albay third district Representative Fernando Gonzalez said water impounded at the source is conveyed through the flume across the river so irrigation could reach dry farm lands.

He said in past years, several hectares of rice fields in the village were idle but when the flume came to Binatagan “it was able to irrigate 40 to 50 hectares of land whose owners waited for so long a time.”

In Barangay Binanawan, about four kilometers away from the city proper, another flume or hanging irrigation was built.

It is about 50 meters long and reinforced with stronger pillars to support the structure and withstand even natural calamities.

“This flume can carry a very large volume of water due to its stronger pillars as 300 hectares of rice land will be irrigated,” Gonzalez said.

He said the flume serves two purposes, as a public pathway in case of flooding, and to carry a big volume of water to rice canals for distribution to vast tracts of rice lands.

Gonzales said the very big volume of water carried by the flume passes through the concrete reinforcement for distribution to rice fields in Ligao City and neighboring municipality of Oas.

“We provide water to 300 hectares of rice land that used to be an abaca plantation,” he said.

The Ogsong Irrigation Association with more than 100 members manages the flume in Barangay Binanawan.

Yu said the flumes are unique in Bicol, specifically in the third district of Albay, that embraces Ligao City and municipalities northwest of the province, such as Guinobatan, Oas, Polangui and Libon, and Pio Duran and Jovellar in the southwestern side.

Water channeled through the unique irrigation system over the bridge is being sourced from the major dams established in the third district.

Local government units in the district manage five major dams and numerous communal and small impounding irrigation projects.

Gonzales said the oldest irrigation facility is the Nasisi Dam that was put up in the 1950’s during the administration of President Ramon Magsaysay.

A major irrigation project of the government, Nasisi was able to withstand the wrath of fierce storms and super typhoons that have hit Albay.

The dam can irrigate 700 hectares of rice fields in Ligao and Oas.

Yu said the third district of Albay has two rubber dams, the only such type of dams in Bicol. These are the South Quinale in Oas and Cabilogan-San Juan in Ligao City.

He said as of December 2015, around 10,030 hectares of rice land were irrigated by NIA in Albay’s third district, known as the rice granary of the province.

Gonzales said “climate smart agriculture” has allowed water to be distributed innovatively in the district.

Climate smart agriculture is a term a term that was coined in 2010 by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization as an approach to farming that addresses the challenges of food security and climate change.

Gonzales said there is “need to innovate” to provide irrigation to farmers with rain-fed farmlands and “help boost food production and augment their income.”

“A lot of innovations, be it over the bridge or under the bridge, make the water available to the farmers,” he said.

Gonzales said without innovation many areas would not have been irrigated.

“The imagination makes things possible,” he added. (PNA) LAM/GVR/RBB/CBD