By Ma. Teresa Montemayor

Photo courtesy of National Irrigation Administration

MANILA – The Department of Agriculture (DA) has improved and constructed about 740 kilometers of irrigation canals as of November this year to ease the impact of El Niño on farmers.

In a news release on Friday, Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu-Laurel Jr. said the DA targets to rehabilitate 843 kilometers of irrigation canals to distribute water more effectively and efficiently to farmlands.

He noted that 40 units of small-scale irrigation systems covering 1,477.5 hectares have also been repaired in addition to these canals.

“We are leaving no stones unturned in our effort to ease the impact of El Niño on our farmers and fishermen as well as consumers by ensuring food production is sufficient and supply is secure during the expected dry spell that could affect a majority of provinces and millions who depend on agriculture and fisheries,” Tiu-Laurel said.

The DA, along with other agencies comprising the Interagency Task for El Niño, has also undertaken cloud-seeding, dispersal of farm animals and provision of alternative livelihoods to farmers and fishermen, implementation of low-water-use technology for rice farming, and quick-turnaround strategy.

Meanwhile, the DA’s Bureau of Soil and Water Management has requested a total PHP112 million for cloud-seeding operations for 2024 to supplement the water requirement of standing crops during periods of low rainfall.

Cloud-seeding operations will be implemented in collaboration with the Department of Science and Technology, and the Department of National Defense.

These agencies will provide information for optimum cloud-seeding operations, including provision of aircraft, respectively.

The DA is set to distribute a total 56,169 animals to 297 farmer groups and 470 individual farmers through the Philippine Native Animal Development Program.

Alternative livelihood and technologies adaptive to climate change will also be provided to fishermen in Bicol, Central Visayas, and Zamboanga Peninsula.

Laurel said the DA will entice more rice farmers to use alternative wetting and drying technology to save water.

He added the technology has been successfully used by over 1.2 million farmers and implemented on 9,210 hectares of rice fields.

About 17,660 hectares of rice fields have been targeted for the implementation of the quick-turnaround strategy, wherein all rice farmers will immediately replant rice without waiting for months to take advantage of the remaining moisture in the soil.

The Philippine Crop Insurance Corp. has been tasked to indemnify affected farmers, and between June and November this year has insured 1.27 million farmers, around 76 percent of the target group.

It has set aside PHP1.8 billion to insure a total of 916,759 farmers and fishermen between January and June next year.

It has also reserved PHP500 million as credit support under its Survival and Recovery Loan Program of the Agriculture Credit Policy Council for some 20,000 borrowers who may be affected by calamities, including the El Niño phenomenon. (PNA)