Ilonggo farmers battle poverty and climate change with rain water harvesting technologies
by ES Subong
Iloilo City (3 November) -- Nepthalie Betito exchanged a lucrative income as businessman for a smaller but steady income as a farmer practicing organic agriculture and a "rainwater harvester." He left business to till a comparatively very small piece of land, about 1500 square meters only, planted with various types of vegetables. Nepthalie, called "Toto" by friends, was not discouraged by the small size of land but was more concerned that he could make it productive and earn sufficiently.
Toto's town of Oton is a 2nd class municipality with 42.13 percent classified as agricultural land, depending mostly on rain to be able to produce. He knew he could not be produce more if he does not have enough supply of water the year round, so using indigenous knowledge and experience, he saved on rainwater for irrigation of his vegetable garden.
He made a cistern and a small pond where ha can preserve water, where at the same time, he kept catfish or African hito for consumption and for sale in the neighborhood. For water not to evaporate easily, Toto covered the pond with coconut leaves and planted it with kangkong. In the instances of very scarce rainwater, He transfers the catfish in a box with water, covered with tarpaulin and then returned to the pond, when the rain comes.
What strengthens his resolve to keep up with this approach, is the fact that he and about 38 other small farmers in his barangay in Abilay, Oton have bonded together to promote practice of rainwater harvesting and organic farming.
He was recently awarded 3rd place in the Search for Best Practices in Rainwater Harvesting, given by the Kahublagan sang Panimalay Foundation.
This group, wherein Toto is president, is called Abilay Sur Modified Farming Association, which now establishes linkages with other groups including government agencies like Department of Agriculture and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
On the other hand, Camilo Sacupon and his sister Josefa of Bgy. Rizal Oton. has been tilling a two-hectare farm totally dependent on rainwater for so many years, as their location is very far from a facility of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA). The land is primarily planted with rice, corn and squash. Much as they wanted to, Camilo and Josefa could not produce enough for the year's consumption.
Sometimes, quarrying has its positive effects. Some years back, there was a quarrying in the barangay and two areas within the farm of Camilo, about 1,250 square meters and 100 square meters were excavated separately. The siblings took advantage of the chance to use the excavated areas to catch rainwater for irrigating their farm and for raising catfish and ducks.
The system which Camilo used earned for him an award as First Placer in the Search for Best Practices on Rainwater utilization, done in April 2008.
For irrigating their farm, Camilo and Josefa used the water siphoning technique because the ponds are located higher than the service area. They siphoned the water by filling a more than 30 meter, with a more or less two inches diameter pipe with water until it is full. After filling the pipe, they placed it on the ground and the water continuously flows down the farm.
"Ang nagabisita sa ulumhan ko nga natabuan gid, pati na ang DENR, nagdayaw gid sa nakita nila nga ginahimo ko (Visitors in my farm, including the DENR, were amazed at how I do it)," Camilo said.
Camilo said that despite the change in climate, they still make it to three bountiful cropping of rice, vegetables and fruits. With the facility they have, the sibling noted that their rice production had increased, from 100 sacks to 120 sacks per cropping plus the fact that they have saved on crude oil which runs the water pump if they use it, and on pesticides and fertilizers, because they have minimized use of these.
There are more farmers in Oton, Sta. Barbara, San Miguel, Pavia, Cabatuan, and Alimodian, all in Iloilo province who have been doing these low-maintenance, cost effective, sustainable and anti-poverty measures in their own initiatives.
These initiatives have recently been highlighted as the government faces the challenge of beating poverty and adapting to climate change. Long before, the Tigum-Aganan Watershed Management Board (TAWMB) through Jessica Salas, President of the Kahublagan sang Panimalay Foundation, has been working on the watershed approach to environmental protection as well as scaling up rainwater harvesting project in the municipalities composing the TAWMB.
With the scaling up project jointly undertaken with the Iloilo Provincial Government, rainwater harvesting is seen by its proponents to be the technology that can raise production and mitigate flooding and climate change. (PIA 6) [top]