After ‘Pablo’, Davao needs to shift agri landscape – official

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/21 December) —The scale of the damage wrought by typhoon Pablo early this month has brought agriculture in the Davao Region to a “tipping point” that it should now shift its agricultural landscape towards climate change resiliency, an official said.

“As agricultural lands were totally wiped out, it is time to change our agricultural landscape,” Constancio Maghanoy, Jr., Department of Agriculture (DA) 11 officer-in-charge regional director, said in an interview Thursday.

He told MindaNews that the region’s total revenue loss in agriculture had reached P28.6 billion as of December 18, adding the data will be updated by Monday (Dec. 24).

He said that so far the estimated damage to rice, corn and high-value crops reached P22.1 billion, coconut P5.1 billion, abaca P232 million, livestock P326 million, fisheries P53 million, and irrigation system P812 million.

He said a total of 18,323 hectares (ha) of rice worth P196 million, and 15,965 ha of corn worth P362 million were damaged by Pablo.

Noting that Davao is known for bananas, he said the region lost P9.7 billion or 13,884 ha of Cavendish bananas, P8 billion or 23,598 ha of Cardava or Saba bananas, and P2.1 billion or 3,963 ha of Lacatan bananas.

Also damaged were 782 ha of coffee worth P27 million and 889 ha of vegetables worth P176 million.

Maghanoy said the loss was more felt for products with high demand in the international market, particularly 2,070 ha of cacao and 7,333 ha of rubber  which damage reached P291 million and P329 million, respectively.

He said the DA-11 and local government units (LGU) of Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental agreed in a meeting Wednesday evening to come up with a climate change-resilient program involving other government agencies.

Areas gravely damaged by Pablo such as Baganga, Boston and Cateel in Davao Oriental will be assessed, while the entire region will be mapped out in terms of appropriate agricultural products with the help of geo-hazard maps, he said.

The official said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) shall be included in the planning as it will help determine the areas for plantation crops and forest products considering the government’s national greening program.

Except for corn, which is a cash crop that is harvested after three months, the region will also shift to varieties of high-value crops that are resistant to typhoons, droughts or heavy rains, he said.

The DA-11, Maghanoy said, will also recommend alternate cropping, adding that banana plantations affected with Fusarium wilt can be planted to cacao or oil palm instead.

He added the department will conduct soil testing in affected areas as Fusarium, a severe disease caused by fungus, is easily spread through flooding.

Free seeds

Maghanoy said free palay, corn and vegetable seeds for farmers affected by Pablo’s aftermath had been channeled through provincial governments to avoid duplication in distribution.

He cited that some 3,200 bags of open pollinated variety of white corn may now be accessed by interested farmers.

By the end of the week, another batch of corn seeds will be distributed to farmers, he added.

He pointed out that white corn is preferable as it can be consumed as staple food. Vegetables that can be planted in the backyard for domestic consumption and stems of root crops will also be given for free.

The government initially gave P500,000 to the LGUs of ComVal and Davao Oriental to subsidize farm implements of the farmers, he said.

Maghanoy noted that it was the first time for the affected farmers to experience such scale of damage, and rehabilitating them and transforming the agricultural landscape of the region will be a daunting task on the part of the LGUs. (Lorie Ann Cascaro/MindaNews)