El Niño destroys P90M worth of crops in SouthCot

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 17 Feb) – Around P90 million-worth of agricultural crops have been devastated in parts of South Cotabato province due to the impact of the continuing dry spell triggered by the El Niño phenomenon.

Milagros Lorca, acting head of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO), said their monitoring showed that around 3,200 hectares of farmlands in the province have been so far affected by the dry spell, which is seen to last until June.

She said most of these areas have already dried up due to limited irrigation supplies and lack of rains since October last year.

The effects of the dry spell was compounded by the onslaught of crop pests, specifically rats or rodents and army worms, she said.

As of the end of January, Lorca said the damaged corn crops have reached a total of 1,912.72 hectares, affecting 1,234 farmers.

For palay, she said the damaged area has reached 1,335.48 hectares and with some 1,145 farmers affected.

Hardest hit were Koronadal City and the municipalities of Tantangan, Polomolok, T’boli and Tampakan.

Lorca said they have stepped up their mitigation activities as the situation could worsen in the coming weeks based on advisories released by the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration.

“According to the latest forecast, it (dry spell) would even intensify in March and extend to April and May,” she said in a media forum in Koronadal City.

The official said they have allotted nearly P11 million for various priority interventions that were set under the province’s El Niño mitigation plan.

She said they have set aside around P7 million for the rollout of the local government’s climate change assistance program and a food-for-work scheme for the affected farmers and farm workers.

The assistance program, which will be implemented in coordination with the city and municipal agriculture offices, includes the distribution of vegetable seeds and other fast-maturing and drought resistant crops, she said.

Lorca said they have allotted some P2 million for the implementation of an alternative livelihood program for farmers and P1 million for the construction of a 48,000-liter overhead tank that will be used for storage of potable water.

Around P500,000 has been set aside as augmentation for the cloud seeding operations of the Department of Agriculture in Region 12 and P300,000 for a training on silage making for livestock farmers, she said.

Lorca added that they also created a team that will lead the conduct of awareness campaigns in local communities regarding the calamity and their mitigation programs.