Cebu upland farms face hardship

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Sunday, January 26, 2014


CEBU -- IT WAS their first and probably their last harvest.

This was what three farmers told Sun.Star Cebu when the news team chanced upon them washing four large baskets of green tomatoes in Sitio Cantipla, Barangay Tabunan, Cebu City.

While it would seem like Ranilla Solon, 62; Matthew Radana, 73; and Leony Claros, 30, had a bountiful harvest, the three said it would be the last for the year. At least for tomatoes.

Cebu City’s mountain barangays experienced 13 days of rain between Jan. 8 and 20.

Coupled with the unusually cold weather, this has caused their animals to start dropping dead and damaged their crops.

The tomato plants have all been uprooted during the non-stop rain and Radana said the only appropriate time to plant tomatoes would be by year’s end, which means that the next harvest for tomatoes would be in January next year.

Long wait

The three farmers were washing the tomatoes beside a plot of eggplants that were also dying.

“Dili na gyud ni kapun-an. Maglimpyo pami sa tibuok luna para makatanom mi balik og repolyo, petsay. Duha pa ka buwan usa pami makakwarta’g balik (There won’t be another harvest anytime soon. We still have to clean the entire farm, then we can plant cabbage, Chinese cabbage. It would take two more months before we can earn again),” said Radana.

He has lived in Cantipla since 1951, became a farmer shortly thereafter.

Radama said rain was expected during the first 15 days of the year. The difference is that this year, there were 13 days of rain, morning through evening. The wind was also strong.

It wasn’t until Jan. 21 that the Cebu City Government was informed of the plight of the farmers in the mountain barangays when Councilor Dave Tumulak received a call from Sudlon I Barangay Captain Dante Tabucal.

“There were two weeks of rain, the wind was so strong. That tree (pointing to a felled Eucalyptus tree) withstood Typhoon Yolanda but not the wind that accompanied the rain,” said Tabucal.

Cebu upland farms face hardship
Matthew Radana, 73, shows some damaged eggplants in his farm in Sitio Cantipla, Barangay Tabunan, Cebu City, which has come under a cold spell and prolonged rains these recent weeks. (Alex Badayos)


Stronger gusts

Sudlon II Barangay Captain Winefredo Macario and Adlaon Barangay Captain Elvis Narra agreed with the comparison of the strong winds this January and Typhoon Yolanda last Nov. 8.

The recent calamity — because the Cebu City Council already declared a state of calamity in 17 mountain barangays — prompted 31 captains of Cebu City to form the Association of Barangay Councils (ABC)–Hillyland.

Cambinocot Barangay Captain Reynaldo Lawas chairs the group.

ABC President Phillip Zafra wants to revisit the plan to insure the farmers. He said he will invite the Philippine Crop Insurance Corp. to present to the ABC a proposal.

Zafra admitted the prohibitive cost of insuring all farmers had caused some reservations on the ABC’s part.

While crops were damaged and some animals died, the biggest problem in Sudlon II that arose from the rainy days this month was the almost impassable road from Barangay Tabunan.

Sun.Star Cebu’s vehicle was stuck in the dirt road thrice.

Macario said he has already filed a request to the Office of Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama to asphalt the road.

Extent

The road is an added burden to the farmers, most of whom use a multi-cab to deliver their produce from the mountain barangay to the urban center.

Macario said his barangay only felt the heat of the sun last Friday. Since the rain has stopped and the weather has become bearable, he sent his tanods around the farmlands to document the damage to the crops and the animals that died.

Initially, there were eight cows that died of extreme cold or were slaughtered because these were already too weak to function.

Macario said about 10 hectares of eggplant farms, 10 hectares of tomato plantations, eight hectares of lettuce and five hectares of cabbage were damaged by the rain and the cold.

The list has yet to be finalized, though.

Initially, Narra counted about 15 animals that died in Adlaon.

According to the report of the City Agriculturist Department, Adlaon had the biggest damage with 134 hectares of farm planted with sweet corn, eggplant, ampalaya, tomato, mango, banana and cutflower affected by the extreme cold and 24-hour rains for almost two weeks.

Calamity funds

“Sweet corn is the main staple of the barangay. Some were damaged by Yolanda but were saved. In this case, because the rain was nonstop for 13 days, the damaged plants could no longer be salvaged,” said Narra.

With the declaration of the state of calamity, Adlaon, Sudlon I and Sudlon II will be able to utilize between P100,000 and P150,000 of their respective calamity funds.

Narra said the amount is not enough, considering the extent of the damage.

Aside from the farmers themselves, Narra said the aides of farmers also lost their livelihood.

With nothing to farm, the farmers do not have the means to pay for laborers, who have nothing to do anyway.

Narra wants to set aside the barangay’s calamity fund to give the laborers rice and other goods.

The City Agriculturist Office has already identified P2.2 million worth of seedlings, fertilizers, vitamins and supplements for the affected farmers. (Sun.Star Cebu)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 26, 2014.

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