THE El Niño phenomenon has been a major setback in various sectors in country, with emphasis in the agriculture sector.
As damage to agricultural crops in Davao Region continue to grow, the regional office of the Department of Agriculture (DA) has urged farmers to engage in cassava farming to counter the adverse effects of El Niño on the agricultural production in the region.
Cassava, globally considered as a "drought-tolerant" agricultural crop, is said to be a relief from the increasing crop damages in the region that already reached some P248.2 million as of December 11, 2015. The figure is calculated from January of last year.
That means, the small farming families, many of whom are now barely subsisting after their root crops were likewise destroyed, are not included in this list.
Agriculturist of DA Davao Field Operations Division JoedelLeliza told Sun.Star Davao in an interview that they are strengthening their campaign on promoting cassava as it is considered as a "drought-tolerant" agricultural crop.
"With the onslaught of El Niño, we are encouraging farmers to go on planting cassava because it is drought-tolerant," he said.
At present, the agriculture department is bent on conducting a research now dubbed as SSNM Cassava funded by Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) set to be implemented this year.
SSNM-Cassava program is a study on acquiring a new technology that will identify the minimum fertilizer requirement for cassava to reach its optimum and maximum production.
The regional office of DA Davao data bared that for 2014, Davao Region has a total of 2,241 hectares devoted to cassava reaching a total of 17,958.28 in metric tons (MT) production, some 12 percent increase as compared to 2013's 15,968.61 MT.
Of the 17,958.28 in metric tons (MT) production, Davao City contributed a total of 2,843.45 MT. Of the five key areas in the region, biggest bulk is contributed by the province of Davao del Sur at 4,744.83 MT, followed by Compostela Valley (3,911.86 MT), Davao del Norte (3,253.14 MT), Davao Oriental ( 3,204.95 MT) and Davao City.
Data for cassava last year is still yet to be finalized by the DA-Davao.
Furthermore, El Niño has taken its toll heavily to corn and rice, of the P248.2 million figure, P140.2 million worth of damages are from rice, while the remaining P107.9 million are from corn.
Data from DA-Davao showed a total of 38,506.64 metric tons (MT) of both rice and corn had been damaged, covering a total of 12,532.15 hectares.
Of the said figure, 1,035 hectares have been partially destroyed, while 12,854.16 has have been totally damaged, affecting thousands of rice and corn farmers in the region.
Davao del Sur is the hardest hit province in the rice sector with P84-million value loss, followed by Davao del Norte with P45.7 million, Davao City with P5.6 million, Compostela Valley with P4.4 million and Davao Oriental with P450,000.
For corn, Davao City recorded the highest loss of P61.6 million, followed by Davao Oriental with P26.2 million, Davao del Sur with P12.9 million, Compostela Valley with P3.8 million and Davao del Norte with P3.3 million.
When asked on the agency's intervention program, Leliza said that a total of P16-million budget was downloaded to the agriculture department last December of last year out of the P93 million requested special budget by DA for the intervention programs against El Nino.
"For 2016, we have identified programs as mitigating plans and measures for El Nino. These are the distribution open surface pump facilities to affected areas, buffer stocking program, seeds, fertilizers, farm tractors, among others," Leliza said.
For corn, DA-Davao introduced to farmers the farming methodology called Sustainable Corn Production in Sloping Areas seen to increase farmer's income by at least 10 percent "a program that is establish a techno-demo farm that will showcase easily adoptable and socially acceptable soil and water conservation conversation technologies focused on soil erosion control and gully stabilization in combination with soil fertility improvement."