Feature: From FIELDS to fields
Bago City, Negros Occidental (23 October) -- From the government's FIELDS program to the farmers' fields.
Since FIELDS launching in April last year, it has come a long way reaching the farmers in Negros Occidental who are both grateful and hopeful of the benefits of FIELDS.
In a farmers' forum here, no less than President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo herself spell out what FIELDS is to some 1,000 farmer-beneficiaries of the Bago River Irrigation System and Improvement Project or BRISRIP. The irrigation system covers three cities and four municipalities in the province namely the cities of Bacolod, Bago and La Carlota while the four municipalities are Murcia, Pulupandan, San Enrique and Valladolid.
"Today, we have a demonstration of the programs in agricultural productivity which is FIELDS," President Arroyo told farmers who gathered in a makeshift tent framed on the right by a rice field readied for planting and on the left by an almost complete post-harvest facilities.
To put it simply, FIELDS stands for Fertilizer, Irrigation, Extension, education and training, Loans, Dryers, and Seeds.
Go organic. For sustainable agriculture, organic farming using organic fertilizer is the way to go.
Negros Occidental farmers' awareness on the use of organic fertilizer is high while only about 20 percent of Panay farmers are into organic, Agriculture regional executive director for Western Visayas Larry Nacionales said in a Philippine News Agency release.
Such, is the advocacy of the Department of Agriculture as it earmarked some P500 – million for the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF) for fertilizer support and production, especially for organic fertilizers.
In Negros Occidental, the P1.8-billion Bago River Irrigation System and Improvement Project or BRISRIP caters to almost 10,000 farmer-beneficiaries servicing some 12,000 hectares of rice fields in the province.
The irrigation system is a run-off the river type of irrigation system with Bago River as the main source of water. Irrigation facilities and structures consist mainly of diversion dam and intake, diversion tunnel, open channel canals, appurtenant structures and farm to market roads.
This and many other irrigation systems in the country form part of the administrations' irrigation component of FIELDS.
Sixty-four year old farmer Jeff Arabello who has rice fields located in the two barangays of Bago City benefit from the irrigation system. Jeff's produce average from 100-105 sacks per hectare as of his last harvest and he calls it a "good harvest".
Extension, education and training
A total amount of P5-billion shall be allocated for extension, education and training of farmers and agricultural extension workers on new technologies and research and development (R & D) on how to increase yields and lower production costs.
President Arroyo urges the farmers in Negros Occidental to become agri-businessmen by learning how to increase productivity to increase their income which is important in the fight against extreme poverty.
During the forum, the President announced that during the Gawad Saka Awards in Manila the government has given out its 150th billion loan from Land Bank of the Philippines to the farmers.
For rice, services such as low interest loans for farm inputs and other farm infra/machineries and Land Bank of the Philippines loan windows for inbred and hybrid rice production shall be made available.
In the FIELDS program, one important component is the post harvest facilities. The DA-Bureau of Postharvest Research and Extension shall provide for 1,504 units of flatbed dryers and about 58 units of mechanical dryers with biomass furnace through the DA-National Food Authority and another 58 units for retrofitting all over the country.
A total amount of Php 9.2 billion shall be allocated fro hybrid and certified seed production and subsidies until year 2010; Php 6.5 billion for the use of certified seeds and Php 2.7 billion for hybrid seeds.
"We need seeds that are flood-resistant and dry spell-resistant due to climate change," President Arroyo told the farmers present in the forum.
"We are very much blessed here in Bago. Our irrigation system which is one of the most important component in our rice production was rehabilitated. We are hopeful that the FIELDS program of the administration can address rice self sufficiency program of the country," farmer Carlos Torres told the President during an interaction.
FIELDS program's total is P43.7- billion for its implementation but the impact of which in terms of agriculture sustainability and sufficiency is priceless. (PIA/EAD) [top]