Davao del Norte farmers go hungry as irrigation falters

DAVAO del Norte farmers have complained of faulty irrigation system that is already affecting their harvest and causing their livelihood to suffer.

Lumi Bautista, a member of the Davao del Norte Farmers Association, said on Monday’s Kapehan sa Dabaw that her community is “losing hope” to find means to live. Their faulty irrigation, which is largely sourced from the Lasang river, has not been fixed for the past five years.

The irrigation system covers Barangay Southern Davao and other 11 barangays in Panabo, spanning about 5,000 hectares of farm land. As a result, Bautista said that many families end up going hungry due to lack of source of income.

Bautista said not enough water flows through the irrigation canals due to the broken dike in the dam. Instead, the water is flowing into a private property were bananas are grown.

The National Irrigation Authority, Bautista said, currently requires a writ of position before it can take any action. However, a private owner of a nearby land is demanding a payment of P40 million for crop and land damage should any sort of rehabilitation of the dike take place. According to Bautista, this is currently being settled in court.

What frustrated her and the rest of the affected communit, is how they’re unable to plant rice for many seasons now. She said that they need consistent water flow to ensure proper irrigation for their farming areas, which are now barren.

“Grass and weed are growing everywhere instead of rice stalks,” Bautista said.

Peter Edulantes, another farmer who also shared Bautista’s sentiment, said that the situation worsened in 2012 when Typhoon “Pablo” damaged the irrigation system. Edulantes said that the dam is about eight to 10 kilometers from the farming areas that need irrigation.

To fix this, Edulantes said, would require a huge amount of money—something that farmers can’t afford to shell out by themselves.

Temporary solutions like sandbagging (to barricade water flow using sandbags) has been employed in the past but they were proven to be ineffective since they are washed away by the strong current during the rainy seasons.

On Sept. 2, the farmers said that they will be holding a meeting for the 12 affected barangays to find a potential solution to the problem. And as if this is not enough, Bautista said they also experience episodes of drought and flood—extreme conditions that affect their livelihood as farmers.

Their current alternative livelihood, said Edulantes, are only limited to “tinda-tinda lang,” or selling whatever they can, to nothing at all.

Bautista said the Department of Agriculture supports them regularly by giving them mongo, corn, and watermelon seeds to plant but this is only a stop-gap measure that is not very sustainable because anything they plant does not flourish on the arid farm.

Local authorities, according to Bautista, are unable to put their hands into this because this is a national project. Before the irrigation system bogged down, Bautista said their community experienced bounty in harvest. For every good season, they’re able to harvest 80-100 sacks of produce per hectare.

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