THE Department of Agriculture in Negros Island Region (DA-NIR) is working on addressing the lack of access to irrigation by some farmers in Negros Occidental, which is affecting the rice production output, its top official said.

Joyce Wendam, officer-in-charge regional director of DA-NIR, Sunday said they are currently identifying potential areas in the province for the installation of solar-powered pumps by the last quarter of the year.

The initiative is under the Small Scale Irrigation Project of DA along with constructions of small water impounding dams and small farm reservoirs, among others.

Wendam said a solar-powered pump has an irrigation efficiency of 15 hectares per day, and can supply 600 to 800 liters of water per minute utilizing river or open sources.

The small-scale project would only cost P50, 000 per hectare, she added.

“There are various proposals for irrigation systems but Secretary Emmanuel Piñol is really promoting the solar-powered pumps,” Wendam said, adding that through the measure, the DA-NIR is optimistic on increasing the province’s rice sufficiency.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) in Negros Occidental had earlier reported a drop in both areas and production of palay in the province last year, which can be attributed to lack of access to irrigation.

PSA reported that in 2016, the province’s total harvested rice areas were 118,196 hectares, which is quite lower than 126,057 hectares in 2015.

In terms of annual production, the province produced a total of 452,582 metric tons of palay last year. It is lower than 491,239 metric tons in 2015, it added.

Based on the reports, almost 33 percent of the total harvested rice areas in the province last year are still dependent on rains as their main source of water.

Wendam said this is still a large portion that could help increase the province’s 98 percent rice self-sufficiency rating.

Thus, the DA-NIR will prioritize rain-fed areas for the installation of solar-powered pumps, Wendam said.

“Through this complementing intervention, we are optimistic to achieve the 100 percent rice self-sufficiency mandate by 2019,” she added.