Plant even during dry spell, DA-12 execs urge farmers

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 7 Jan) – Agriculture officials have urged farmers in Southwestern Mindanao to continue planting crops, as the country started to feel the feared El Nino phenomenon.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, who was here for the turnover of farm equipment and seedlings to Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peasant communities in Maguindanao, and DA-12 Regional Director Amalia Jayag Datukan assured the public mitigating measures are already in place.

“We should not cease planting, we should not lose hope,” Alcala told reporters.

“You see despite weather advisory on El Nino, we still experience rainfall in some areas, so continue planting,” he addressed the region’s farmers.

Alcala also said DA has programs that will help farmers cope with the feared dry spell, including seed assistance, water projects, among others.

South and North Cotabato have started feeling the effect of the dry spell as shown in the drying up rice fields in the town of Mlang.

Datukan said DA is mulling cloud seeding operations anytime in response to requests by local government units and farmers.

“DA is prepared to replenish damaged crops,” she told a news conference.

She said it was not right for farmers not to plant in anticipation of longer dry spell.

“Farmers should plant because DA is here to help them should the crops fail,” Datukan said. “So continue planting, DA will be happy to assist,” she added, noting that her office is attending to requests for cloud seeding and repair of water impounding projects.

Replenish seedlings are ready for distribution, she added.

In Barangay Buayan, Mlang, where 90 percent of the farmers are into palay production, rice fields have dried up due to limited water from irrigation.

Farmers said palay on its vegetative stage have no chances of recovery due to extreme heat.

Rice farmers are looking up to water pump as backup to irrigation to cushion the impact of drought in their farms.

In the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), agriculture and fishery officials are closely monitoring the agriculture sectors.

Alexander Alonto, regional secretary of ARMM’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, said that to date, there have been no reported major losses yet from the farmers and fisheries sectors in ARMM.

“The region is yet to experience serious effects of drought, but so far farmers are enjoying occasional rains in the region,” Alonto said in Filipino. “We are ready to respond should the dry spell affect our farmers and fisher folks,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Balik Kalikasan Advocacy Group (BKAG), an alliance of environmentalists and reforestation advocates in ARMM, calls for water conservation to all stakeholders. The group appealed to household owners to check on leaking water pipes and recycle the use of water. “It’s not too late yet, plant trees in your surroundings,” BKAG said in a statement.

It also urged villagers to help prevent forest fires, especially near watershed areas in the region.