By Roi Lomotan
The Department of Agriculture (DA) and Negros Oriental Provincial Agriculturist Office (PAO) are ready to provide support interventions to help farmers cope up with the possible effects of El Niño in the province’s agriculture sector.
In a Kapihan sa PIA forum held April 30 here, DA-7 Official Marina Viniegas said there is P63 million budget allocation for the implementation of the department’s El Niño mitigating measures in Central Visayas and most of these are already attributed to DA’s programs for 2019 particularly in rice and corn production.
Some of the activities to be carried out by the department include reproduction and distribution of information materials on El Niño advisories for farmers, cloud seeding operations, distribution of drums and pipes for water storage, irrigation system, training for alternative livelihood, provision of vaccines and biologics for livestock, monitoring of pest and diseases for crops and animals, and pest control.
“Although mo-advocate ta for (although we advocate for) organic agriculture, when it comes to pest outbreaks, we have to be ready with chemical control,” Viniegas explained.
The DA official also confirmed that Bohol and Negros Oriental will have the biggest slice of the budget since Bohol is the major producer of rice in the region while Negros Oriental is the major producer of corn.
For their part, PAO Operations Division Chief Alvin Blaza said their office will conduct information campaign on climate change mitigation to farmers, procurement and distribution of drought-tolerant varieties of rice, identification of sites for small scale irrigation systems to the areas prone to drought prior to the onset of El Niño, and provide alternate sources of livelihood for farmers as part of their interventions.
Part of the programs for alternate livelihood for farmers includes intensifying swine fattening and native chicken dispersal.
Aside from this, PAO is also conducting a pest monitoring for army worm and locusts which are prevalent during the dry season.
“A total of over P9 million forms our request as mitigating measures (A total P9 million have been allocated for our mitigating measures),” Blaza shared.
Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA)-Negros Oriental Chief Meteorologist Neptune Catarata reported during the Kapihan Forum that the province experienced below normal rainfall over the past three months which is an indication of dry spell.
Catarata said the majority of the climate models suggest weak El Niño condition may persist June, July, and August. However, based on the monthly outlook which he presented during the Kapihan, Negros Oriental may be able to experience near normal rainfall condition by June.
In relation to this, Blaza said the municipalities of La Libertad and Mabinay and Canlaon City have submitted their agricultural damage reports to PAO.
Based on their reports, around 252 hectares of rice fields in the aforementioned areas with different stages of crops (seedling, vegetative, and reproductive) are affected by the dry spell.
Blaza also disclosed that there are some local government units (LGUs) like Bayawan City which directly sent their report to the DA and their reports are not included in PAO’s data.
With this, Blaza said the Provincial Agriculturist made a request to city and municipal agriculturist in other LGUs to send copies of their reports to PAO so that they can include their data in the agency’s records.