Zambo farmers, fisherfolk lament losses worth P34-M due to flash floods

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews / 31 May) —As the Mes de Siembrador y Pescadores (Farmer’s and Fishermen’s Month) ended Monday, farmers and fisherfolk in the east coast here lamented the losses to their farms following the flash floods caused by heavy rains that were triggered by the Intertropical Convergence Zone on May 18 and 19.

The city’s agriculture office placed the damages at P34.30 million.

“What happened recently was a big loss for us,” said vegetable farmer Janet Tarroza Cabato, 36, as she tearfully recalled the flash floods that lashed Barangay Bolong.

She and other farmers at Zamboanga’s east coast were hoping to have bumper harvests by the end of May. Their hopes, however, were crushed by the heavy rains and flash floods.

Cabato, president of the Bolong Upland Farmers Association, said that at least 75 farmer-members were affected by the calamity.

Joseph Ledesma, 38, symphatized with fellow farmers in Sitio Piña, Barangay Bungiao whose rice farms and properties were destroyed by the rampaging waters.

“It was dawn when the heavy rains poured and many were still asleep. Many were not able to save their personal property,” he said.

Ledesma, president of the Federation of Zamboanga Upland Farmers Associations and the ImCon Upland Farmers Association, noted that nobody thought of flooding since on the night of May 17, the moon “was up high and bright like a full moon.”

In a phone interview, Carmencita Sanchez, city agriculturist, said the heavy rains and flash foods destroyed agriculture and marine products worth P34.30 million.

Of the figure, the agriculture sector suffered P22.65 million losses, affecting 1,396 farmers, she said.

For the marine sector, the flash floods damaged fishponds and seaweeds worth P11.65 million, she added.

Sanchez said that 969 seaweed farmers with an area of 328 hectares and 34 fishpond operators with an area of 76 hectares were affected by the calamity in Barangays Manicahan and Culianan.

Last Friday, Sanchez said their office started distributing hybrid seeds to affected rice, corn and vegetable farmers in the east coast, prioritizing those enlisted at the Registry System for Basic Sector in Agriculture.

Ledesma, whose federation is composed of 22 member associations with 865 individual farmers, said that the upland and lowland farmers need assistance from the government.

“Hopefully, we will be granted with a livelihood program. In 2017, we were given a small fund to help us earn income. (Because of the recent calamity,) we need additional assistance, we need tools and equipment to help us),” Ledesma told MindaNews.

He also pointed out some issues that require local government intervention in the time of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Ledesma said that not all farmers in the city, which is under the modified enhanced community quarantine, have been issued with food passes.

Recently, the police blocked a vegetable farmer from Barangay Bunguiao because he does not have a food pass, he said.

The farmer, who was on the way to sell his produce to the market, went back home as his pleas to be allowed to proceed fell on deaf ears, he added.

Ledesma urged the city government to also improve farm-to-market roads to help the farmers in transporting their crops.