The Philippine Star
Mereyll Kyla Irader
June 12, 2011
MANILA, Philippines – Though typhoons are not considered a major problem in Bukidnon, calamities such as drought, pests and diseases did not spare the crops of farmers from damages.
When El Niño hit Bukidnon in 2003 and 2005, indemnity paid for drought reached the highest.
What the farmers did
Subsistence farmers have their share of traditional farming practices that served them well when drought hit the province. Among these are using organic fertilizer from manure and compost; observing proper timing in planting crops; using crop residues as mulch in vegetable gardens to conserve water; planting drought-tolerant crops; and constructing reservoir to collect rainwater.
Water-saving technologies like rainwater harvesting using small reservoirs, drip irrigation, shallow tube wells, and other irrigation development and services are present in Bukidnon.
Small farm reservoir (SFR) is an impounding structure that harvests rain and collects runoff. SFR provides irrigation for dry season crops and supplements water for wet season cropping. It also enables farmers to raise fish and grow livestock for food and additional income.
Drip irrigation is a process of applying irrigation water into the base of the plant like a leaking bucket. Minimal soil surface is wetted through this method; thus, amount of direct evaporation and excess percolation through the root zone will be reduced. Bananas are among crops which rely on drip irrigation in the province.
Shallow tube wells and irrigation development are commonly used for rice irrigation. In 2003, DA-Region 10 provided the province with shallow tube wells and irrigation development support.
Government institutions in Bukidnon do not have explicitly labeled programs on climate change.
There are existing programs, however, undertaken to capacitate people to adapt on the impacts of climate change. Programs applied are on organic farming, diversified integrated farming systems, and water saving technologies for agriculture. On lean seasons, farming communities have alternative income sources.
For lowland rice production, the Sustainable System of Irrigated Agriculture (SSIA) Technology is applied. It employs intermittent water application in rice farming; applies organic fertilizers and pesticides as agricultural inputs; and follows prescribed crop management procedures.
Through SSIA, early transplanting and straight row planting at one plant per hill is required to enable seedlings to grow better in lesser competition. Also, it specifies the cropping calendar and lowers the water application requirement.
The Department of Agriculture-Region 10, through a study, modified SSIA and showed that the technology performs better during dry season because of the organic matter’s carry-over effect for the next cropping in a lower production cost.
Contour farming and diversified integrated farming systems resulting in better yield, and reduction of bacterial wilt population and water runoff over monoculture proved to be suitable technologies for upland and hilly land farming. Runoffs are reduced in contour farming; thus, protecting the top soil against soil erosion. Top soil contains nutrients for plants and also serves as reservoir for soil water during dry periods.
Meanwhile, crop diversification augments the income of farmers as any crop, which grows well, can be tapped as another way to earn a living. An example for is the ipil-ipil tree which is used for firewood, charcoal as well as fruit trees, root crops, vegetables and other plants that are feed sources for livestock.
Another strategy is through organic farming where even marginal lands can be brought back to life as organic matter is essential for the sustainability of subsistence agriculture. Nitrogen, phosphorous, and sulfur are released in the decomposition stage, thus, supplying carbon and energy in the soil. Organic matter binds the soil mineral particles and improves the soil structure for moisture retention.
Through intervention of local government, agriculture input subsidies are given to farmers to increase agricultural production. In Valencia City, Bukidnon, an ordinance, which espouses sustainable agriculture through organic farming, was passed to provide assistance in farming communities. Through Valencia City Ordinance No. 2008-09, the city aims to stability of food supplies for its constituents.
Identifying existing strategies
All because of climate change, an agricultural province like Bukidnon is threatened of losing its productivity. As agriculture relies on climatic conditions in order to flourish, agricultural practices shall then cope with the climatic changes.
Unlabeled programs on climate change are already in place. These are on research, extension, policy information, subsidies and grants. However, these programs must be properly identified for efficient facilitation and employment.
With explicitly identified programs to address the phenomenon, it will be easier for subsistence farmers to apply techniques and adjust on the impacts. Hence, economic loss among the farming sector will be avoided.