Mindanao watersheds in bad shape

By Kristine L. Alave
Philippine Daily Inquirer
02/06/2011

MANILA, Philippines—Three major watersheds in Mindanao are in dire condition, which could affect food production in the region, according to a Department of Agriculture (DA) official.

Dr. Silvino Tejada, chief of the DA’s Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM), urged the department and the local governments concerned to rehabilitate the watersheds in Linamon, Lanao del Norte; Gigaquit, Surigao del Norte, and Nasipit, Agusan del Norte.

Tejada said the three watersheds support small-time farmers and help mitigate floods and landslides. The watersheds, with a total of about 22,000 hectares, are also a source of water for local residents.

“Climate change or weather occurrences like La Niña and El Niño have presented many challenges to the small farmers who rely on watersheds for many things like their water supply and protection from soil erosion. If a watershed is not in good condition, it would be impossible for it to support a farming community, especially with climate change and excessive rainfall caused by La Niña,” Tejada said.

A BSWM survey showed that the soil and water resources of the Kinabangan watershed in Nasipit had been “exploited beyond its capacity resulting in low productivity in various farm areas.”

The two other watersheds were underutilized, the survey found. The farmers near the watersheds also planted the wrong crops and used farming methods that harmed the soil.

If the watersheds were used properly, the farmers could grow high-value crops which would mean a higher income for them, the survey showed.

“Mindanao has always been called the land of promise but its potential, especially in agriculture, would only be realized if its watershed areas were rehabilitated and well-maintained,” Tejada said.

He said the watersheds needed immediate intervention and the farmers needed to be taught the best crops to plant and proper organic and inorganic balance fertilization, and composting.

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