PILI, Camarines Sur, Feb. 15 (PNA)—The three Bicol provinces of Catanduanes, Sorsogon and Masbate have been included in the priority list of the Department of Agriculture’s six-year program to irrigate an additional one million hectares of rice fields for hybrid crop technology.
Department of Agriculture (DA)- Bicol Director Elena Delos Santos, in an interview at their regional office in Pili, Camarines Sur, said the program, which will begin this year, is in response to President Rodrigo Duterte’s goal to achieve a “target production yield of six metric tons per hectare to attain rice sufficiency” before his term ends.
She said by applying “climate smart” practices in agricultural production, the farmers could cope with changing climate and adverse weather conditions, among them the El Niňo phenomenon.
The goal is to achieve “inclusive, value-chain oriented and climate-resilient agriculture and fisheries sector through strategic investments in the priority commodity value chains,” said Delos Santos.
She said the three Bicol provinces have been included in the list of 10 priority provinces for the program’s second year of implementation in 2018. The government based its list on the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA)’s data on annual poverty incidence in the country.
This year, the first-year implementation of the program, the priority projects are in 10 provinces: Luzon--Apayao; Visayas--Northern Samar, Western Samar, Eastern Samar and Negros Oriental; Mindanao--North Cotabato, Saranggani, Maguindanao, Lanao Del Norte and Zambaonga Del Norte.
She said in 2018, aside from the three Bicol provinces, also in the priority list are Siquijor in the Visayas; and Lanao del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Sur, Sultan Kudarat and Sulu, in Mindanao.
“The aim is to attain food sufficiency during the term of President Duterte so the farmers could cope with changing climate or extreme weather conditions,” said Delos Santos.
She said the Bicolano farmers are noted for their ability to adapt to changing climate conditions that has earned them support from the United States Agency for International Development or USAID to become a priority area for development.
Delos Santos said the Bicolano farmers have the edge in coping with the adverse impact of climate change as the region is able to generate higher rice and corn production despite the series of natural calamities that hit the region.
Records of DA-Bicol showed that in the first quarter of 2016, Bicol has ranked third in terms of palay production with an 8.39 percent share in national production.
“In fact, our farmers are ranked first and best by USAID when it comes to its climate change adaptation and resiliency,” she said.
Bicolano farmers and their agricultural production are faced with the constant reality of volcanic eruption, floods and strong typhoons that batter the Bicol peninsula with an average of over 20 typhoons crossing the country each year.
“With climate smart farming mechanisms adopted by the Bicolano farmers, the Bicol region has emerged as an agricultural giant in the country,” said Delos Santos.
She cited how Bicolano farmers utilize high quality seeds to minimize losses brought by extreme weather conditions and use agricultural machineries that were given by DA to the farmers with minimal farmer’s equity.
Delos Santos said DA-Bicol also works with PSA to ensure updated and accurate production data, particularly on the effects of climate change on agricultural farming and production.
Emily Bordado, DA regional spokesperson, said the implementation of the so-called HYTA techno-demo project in major rice producing municipalities in the region has encouraged rice farmers to shift from certified seeds to hybrid seeds to maximize their productivity.
She cited that a rice technology forum complemented by a 20-hectare demonstration farm on hybrid technology in Albay was successfully conducted last year by DA.
DA-Bicol currently maintains 206 active local farmers’ technicians to augment the technical support being given by local government units to rice farmers.
“Part of the farmers’ adaptation is the planting of the ‘green super rice variety’ as tested in Bicol, specifically in water saline and flood-zone areas of the region like in the Bicol River area,” said Bordado.
She said the technologies adopted by graduates of the so-called “climate smart” farmers’ field schools have shown positive impact on production.
Bordado said to help boost productivity of the rice farms damaged due to El Niňo, a buffer stock program was done coupled with giving “precise type of fertilizers and soil ameliorants.”
She said DA-Bicol also helps collect data on rainfall amount, provides studies on rain gauges, give farmers planting materials and trainings on post-harvest equipment.(PNA) FPV/GVR/RBB/CBD