In spite of the strong El Niño that has been battering the entire nation since September last year, the Department of Agriculture (DA) is optimistic that only a negligible percentage in production and yield decrease will be felt.
For one full year, February 2015-February 2016, less than 195,000 hectares (ha), from combined rice and corn production areas, were reportedly affected. This is 361,046 ha less than the affected areas during the 2009-2010 dry spell.
The minimal damage, according to agri-experts, may be attributed to the prompt distribution of support and assistance, as well as the dissemination of information to farmers.
Agriculture chief Proceso J. Alcala stressed that farmers knew better now and opted not to plant crops that are most susceptible to drought. This time, they grew drought-resistant crops including peanut, mongo, soybean and sweet potato, which reduced the chances of damage and loss.
At the onset of El Niño, the Department of Agriculture thru its concerned bureaus and attached agencies, and regional offices laid-out adaptation strategies to cushion the impact of the season—forecasted to be the driest and hottest of the year (2015-2016).
These include reinforced irrigation and water management, as well as intensified pest management and surveillance initiatives.
For fish health, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has been in full command of monitoring and management activities—keeping a close watch on all operations for both the fish capture and fish culture subsectors.
Aside from these, the crop insurance system was enhanced. Thru the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (PCIC), the DA provides insurance protection to farmers against losses incurred from natural calamities, plant diseases and pest infestations.
Under PCIC’s crop insurance program for rice, for example, a farmer may get indemnity ranging from P41,000-P65,000 which covers the cost of production per hectare.
On top of all of these, the Agriculture Department has steadily provided seed and vaccine support to the most affected communities.
CLOUD SEEDING SORTIES
Cloud seeding, one of the most effective El Niño adaptation strategies, continues to bring in positive results.
In Mindanao, particularly in SOCCSKSARGEN, Sec. Alcala called for additional hours of sorties, following a successful series of cloud seeding.
In other parts of the country, cloud seeding operations have already taken-off—resulting to scattered rain showers that provided a refreshing break for the arid farmlands.
But more than adaptation, the government continues to look for long-term and permanent solutions to the repetitive dilemma that is the El Niño. As the DA dons full battle gear to combat the effects of drought, the nation is encouraged to take action as well. After all, this is OUR battle.
EL NIÑO OUTLOOK
As per PAG-ASA report, El Niño will reach its peak this March, with 16 provinces in Southern Philippines taking the havoc of the drought. These include Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, Bukidnon, Lanao del Norte, Misamis Occidental, Davao del Sur, South Cotabato, North Cotabato, Saranggani, Sultan Kudarat, Tawi-Tawi, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Maguindanao and Sulu. Two provinces in the Visayas (Negros Oriental and Siquijor) and one in Luzon (Palawan) will also be greatly affected.
Dry spell will continue to linger in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao particularly in Benguet, Pangasinan, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Zambales, Rizal, Occidental Mindoro, Bohol, Camiguin, Misamis Oriental, Compostela Valley and Davao del Norte.
The PAG-ASA Lexicon
Dry condition - two consecutive months of below normal (21%-60% reduction from average) rainfall conditions. Dry Spell – three consecutive months below normal (21-60% reduction from average) rainfall conditions or two consecutive months of way below normal (more than 60% reduction from average) rainfall conditions. Drought – three consecutive months of way below normal (less than 60% reduction from average) or five consecutive months of below normal (21%-60% reduction from average) rainfall condition. # Source – www.da.gov.ph