For many years, Mindanao has been labeled “The Land of Promise”, because of its vast potentials for agriculture given its vast land and typhoon-free climate.
But the deep-seated conflicts in Mindanao have made it hard for the government and local people to make their lands highly productive. Climate Change also presents new sets of challenges to farming activities in Mindanao.
This is sad considering that Mindanaoans, Muslims and Christians alike, are an industrious lot who can make their island a source of pride when it comes to agriculture production.
Yet many people still see lots of hope for Mindanao, including the public servants of the Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM), which is among the agencies actively involved in the Mindanao Rural Development Program (MRDP).
The BSWM is actively involved in the Mindanao Rural Development Program – Adaptable Program Loan Phase 2 (MRDP2), which is a poverty-alleviation initiative implemented through the Department of Agriculture (DA) jointly funded by the World Bank, National Government, and local government units. The project covers Mindanao’s 26 provinces and 225 municipalities.
The objective of the MRDP is to “further improve rural incomes and achieve food security through agri-fishery infrastructure, livelihood enterprise, and biodiversity conservation projects,” according to the project’s website (http://www.damrdp.net/).
The role of the BSWM in the project is to undertake “Soil and Land Resources Evaluation” of various watershed areas in Mindanao, which are essential in increasing or stabilizing agriculture production in the southern island.
“Unless watershed areas are protected, lands planted to agriculture cannot be assured of having enough water supply for crop production. Watershed areas are also important in checking erosion or siltation, which can be damaging to farm lands,” said Mr.Sunny de Guzman of the BSWM.
Among others, the BWSM already finished the evaluation of the watersheds of Linamon in Lanao del Norte, Gigaquit in Surigao del Norte, and Nasipit in Agusan del Norte.
The BSWM’s survey of the Kinabangan Watershed in Nasipit, Agusan del Norte showed that its soil, land and water resources are “over exploited beyond its capacity resulting to low productivity of various farm areas.”
“Evaluating said capacity, adopting appropriate land use and employing farming systems, soil and crop management practices that realize the potential of the land and restore its productivity, are important considerations in long-range planning for the effective development and sustainable use of soil and land resources,” the BSWM’s report said.
The soil and water agency’s survey of the land showed that around 4,250 hectares or 68.53% of its total land area could potentially host agribusiness activities like the planting of high value commercial crops (HVCCs) like fruit trees and vegetables like sweet pepper, pole sitao and ampalaya. Industrial crops could also be planted in the said lands.
“The introduction of agriculture development interventions like proper organic and inorganic balance fertilization, composting and liming will improve sustainable productivity in the long run for the above mentioned crops. The provisions of support services such as construction, improvement and rehabilitation of the farms machinery equipment and post harvest facilities as well as the introduction of improved and modern technology, facilitation of credit and market assistance are all crucial in the attainment of the aforementioned goals that will jive with the development strategy of the watershed,” the BSWM report said.
For the Linamon Watershed in Linamon, Lanao del Norte, the soil and water agency’s evaluation revealed that “soil, land and water resources are optimally utilized and hence, resulting to low productivity of various farm areas.”
“The inherent fertility is generally low, especially in the upland and hilly and due to soil erosion, shallow soil, moderate to steep slope that limit the crop producing sustainable productivity,” the BSWM report further stated.
The DA has identified around 1,824.79 hectares or 88.26% of the lands of the Linamon Watershed as potential sites for HVCC cultivation.
Similar set of findings were also made by the BSWM on the Gigaquit Watershed in Surigao del Norte, particularly, noting the “low productivity of various farm areas.”
Gigaquit boasts of the largest area among the three watershed areas evaluated by the BSWM, since around 15,769 hectares or 67.25 percent of its total land area was found to be potential agribusiness sites for HVCC cultivation.
The BSWM also recommends the same set of interventions for the development of th eLinamon and Gigaquit watershed areas, particularly: proper organic and inorganic balance fertilization, and composting; provision of support services such as construction, improvement and rehabilitation of the farms machinery equipment and post harvest facilities; introduction of improved and modern farming technology; and facilitation of credit and market assistance.
Large potential area
With a total of around 21,843 hectares of lands that could be planted to HVCCs and other crops, the BSWM said that the development of the three watershed areas presents vast development potentials in agriculture for Mindanao.
“The potential employment and livelihood opportunities from the development of the Kinabjangan, Linamon and Gigquit watershed could help Mindanao achieve its potential as the food basket of the Philippines. Likewise, the development of the three watershed areas would greatly help in achieving peace in Mindanao because many still believe that poverty and lack of livelihood are also the causes of conflict in Mindanao,” said Sunny de Guzman, MRDP, focal person.
The soil and water agency’s role in the MRDP underscores the need to take into account the environmental factors in developing farming clusters in the rural or hinterlands of the country. The BSWM thus remains committed to its role in undertaking the MRDP to help realize the Mindanao’s vast agriculture potential. Veron A. Hernandez, Greenfields Magazine & PSciJourn Mega Manila