17 Jun Effects of El Nino on Terrace Farmers
Vicky Garcia took a circle trip through the Cordillera- Baguio, Bontoc, Barlig and Banaue- during the week of April 21, 2010.
Cordillera terrace farmers were not spared from the drought of El Nino. Although the weather pattern was predicted, farmers were not expecting the total absence of rain beginning in December.
Prior to the El Nino, the region was severely affected by a series of storms that blew through at the end of 2009. Farmers worked for many weeks and months rebuilding their terraces. Torrential rains and landslides damaged terrace walls, irrigation systems and the paddies.
Because of this, the planting of the terrace seedbeds was delayed. This, in turn, delayed the transplanting time in most of the municipalities where the project is active. Because of this delay, the seedlings were greatly affected by the heat and drought of the El Nino. Severe drought condition were reported in Banaue, Kiangan, some parts of Hungduan, Aguinaldo and Hingyon in Ifugao; in Lubuagan and some parts Pasil, Kalinga; as well as in some areas of Barlig, Sadanga, Natonin and Tadian, Mountain Province
As part of an effort to help project farmers document their traditional farming practices, RICE, Inc. had given a number of disposable film cameras to farmers. Farmers took the following pictures that document the effects of the drought.
The first picture, taken in mid-March in the Banaue-Hingyon area shows a late growing seedbed. Instead of transplanting in early January, this farmer was transplanting in mid-March.
The middle picture shows the need for larger pvc hoses to carry the much needed water from the main water source to paddies. Far right, several weeks after transplanting, the rice is dying in the field. The normally wet terraces were cracked and dry to a depth of almost 5 inches..
RICE Inc., along side with local agriculture officers, toured the affected areas. The most severely affected were low to medium elevation terraces. The medium to high elevation areas of Pasil (Balatoc, Balinciagao, Culayo), Tinglayan, Lubuagan, Kalinga; Kadaclan (Lunas-chupac and Fiagtin) in Barlig and Natonin, Mountain Province seemed be less affected. In areas where there was not enough water to irrigate the terrace paddies, the farmers fetched water at night in order to sustain the water level needed by the rice, especially during the dough stage of the plant.
It was reported in some areas along the Benguet-Bontoc National Road, farmers bought rationed water in order to maintain their gardens that were accessible to the roadside. In Tanudan, Tinglayan and Sadanga, farmers were appealing to their culture’s ancestral gods for rain.
During this time of year, if not for El Nino, the rice would be in the flowering to maturation stage. But what we witnessed was mostly empty paddies. There was no water running in the irrigation canals and the paddies were dry and parched.
In the higher elevation terraces, which still have intact watershed areas, water was still available for irrigation.
With Barlig’s Municipal Agriculturist Cef Oryan and NIA (CAR)’s Heirloom Rice regional coordinator, Tulips Yagyaga, we were able to visit the farm of Ominio producer, Blacio Akinchang, in the Lunas-Kadaclan (Barlig) area.
Blacio is one of the most consistent farmers for producing Ominio (Mountain Violet Sticky Rice) for export sales. He welcomed our group to house, which had been renovated using money he had earned from the sale of his sticky rice in 2008-2009. He related that before joining the CHRP his house was falling down. With his sales from the Ominio rice, he was able to set concrete posts and attach GI sheet walling. He was able to add more space for the family.
Blacio was also a beneficiary of a carbonizer, which is used for making organic fertilizer from threshed panicles and rice hulls. RICE Inc. helped secure 60 carbonizers from PhilRice for distribution in project areas.
The Barlig LGU should be commended for their counterpart support that has been critical to moving the project forward. That support has included counterpart sharing for farmers’ transportation costs, logistical support for the consolidation of the harvest, transportation of the palay to the processing area in Bontoc.They are working closely to help build the cooperative capacity of the growers of Ominio and Chor-chor-os varieties. Pictured at left are Barlig’s Vice Mayor Edmund Sidchayao, Tulips Yagyaga, NIA (CAR), Barlig Mayor Magdalena Lupoyon, Vicky and Cef Oryan, Municipal Agriculturist.