KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/10 October) — One hundred forty-four million pesos has been allotted for the repair and upgrading of the Allah River Irrigation System that feeds 12,000 hectares of palay farms in South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat provinces, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said.
The National Irrigation Administration, a Department of Agriculture attached agency, will spearhead the project seen to be completed by next year.
Alcala, who was in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat recently for an irrigators’ federation meeting, said that P6 million will be spent until December and the rest in 2012.
Aside from the funding for the ARIS, which serves 8,850 farmer-families, Alcala also committed at least P15 million worth of farm equipment to the Ala Dam 2 Federation of Irrigators’ Association to boost their productivity.
By improving the country’s irrigation systems and farm productivity, the Agriculture department hopes to attain food sufficiency by 2013 as well zero rice importation, he said.
Protection of the Allah River system is a key concern of the provinces of South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat not only to boost agriculture but also for the conservation of biodiversity in the area.
The two provinces have earlier created the Allah Valley Landscape Development Alliance (AVLADA) toward such end.
An earlier study by AVLADA said that portions of the river channel, which feeds water to the irrigation system, already elevated by several meters due to the heavy concentration of silt.
The silt caused the river to expand, eating up hundreds of hectares of farmlands and portions of some local communities, AVLADA said.
Allah River, which is considered the biggest river channel in the area, traverses at least nine municipalities and a city within the provinces of South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat. It drains towards the Liguasan Marsh in Maguindanao and eventually to the Rio Grande de Mindanao and the Moro Gulf.
Based on AVLADA’s records, at least 67 barangays traversed by the Allah and Banga Rivers in the area are exposed to various risks due to flooding problems, which translates to approximately 6,700 households or some 40,000 individuals, 60 percent of who are women and children.
AVLADA’s programs and strategies include capability and institution building, information and education campaign, remote sensing–GIS mapping, community mapping for barangay development, riparian zone re-vegetation, reforestation and upstream resource management and sub-watershed adoption and forestland co-management.
The alliance’s creation was an offshoot of a major flashflood that hit Allah River on September 6, 1995, which left at least 53 persons dead and devastated millions worth of infrastructure, agricultural crops and properties. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)