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PIA Press Release

DA has greening project to counter future dry spells

Quezon City (1 September) -- The Department of Agriculture (DA) is undertaking a massive greening project that aims to plant one million trees in watersheds and rehabilitate small water impounding works in farm areas across the country to help counter the adverse effects of seasonal dryness and dry spells on agricultural production in the future.

DA Secretary Arthur Yap said the project, dubbed the Soil and Water Army for Resources Management (SWARM), is initially being implemented in the North Luzon Agribusiness Quadrangle (NLAQ).

The "development champion" for NLAQ, Yap said SWARM will require one million volunteers to plant vegetables, fruit trees and forest tree species in DA-identified priority sites and to maintain these areas.

"The increasing vulnerability to drought, soil erosion, extended dry spell and alternating incidence of El Niņo and La Niņa of major farm production areas in Luzon and some parts of the Visayas as well as Mindanao, underscore the need for this widescale greening and rehabilitation project," said Yap.

According to Yap, the priority SWARM areas are the provinces of Kalinga, Ilocos Sur, Isabela and Nueva Ecija, which cover a total of 2,243 hectares of watershed.

Volunteers will be needed to help plant economic fruit trees like camachile, duhat, kamansi, cashew, calamansi & other citrus; vegetable trees such as caturay, malunggay, alucon, sampaloc, and atsuete; bamboo; and lemon grass.

The project also includes the repair and restoration of small water impounding projects (SWIP) servicing 400 hectares, which will benefit some 4,000 farmers, and the rehabilitation of 19,600 hectares of upland areas in Northern Luzon, Yap said.

Another key component of SWARM is the dredging and cleaning of water reservoirs, canals, spillways and dams.

Yap said that on a nationwide scale, SWARM will cover a total of 6.6 million hectares of land in Luzon, and another 1.41 million hectares in the Visayas that are prone to droughts or typhoons.

He said certain provinces in Mindanao, like Misamis Oriental, Bukidnon, Maguindanao, Davao del Sur, Davao Oriental, Lanao del Norte, South Coatabato, Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga del Sur, might also be covered by the project owing to their increasingly vulnerability to seasonal dryness as a result of the El Nino weather phenomenon.

On Yap's orders, the DA has provided drought-hit provinces emergency aid in the form of shallow tube wells, seeds, vaccine vials and other means of assistance to farmers to mitigate the adverse effects of the dry spell on their crop and livestock production.

The DA is also helping farmers in the Luzon provinces hit by the dry spell to make prudent use of available water by employing the controlled irrigation technology developed by the Philippine Rice Institute, International Rice Research Institute and the National Irrigation Administration.

For farmers who have not yet planted palay, the DA is encouraging them to shift to short-maturing hybrid rice varieties, hybrid corn, vegetables and other dry-season crops.

Moreover, Yap said the DA has also been providing farmers and fisherfolk with alternative means of livelihood to help them subsist through the second semester of 2007 and the first quarter of 2008.

Yap is devoting most of August to visiting affected farms as well as the DA's "quick-turnaround" areas to find out the specific intervention measures needed to ease the ill effects of the dry spell in the affected provinces and to further boost yields in non-affected ones, notably those in the Visayas and Mindanao. (PIA) [top]

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