LAGAWE, Ifugao- More than a thousand rice farmers here reported that they are already experiencing the negative effects of the predicted El Niño phenomenon or long dry spell, which is expected to hit the country from February to July this year.

The farmers expressed their fear and anxiety that if the dry spell continues and no early intervention is provided then they will stand to suffer huge economic losses for their damaged rice crops.

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They said as early as the month of December, they observed the rivers, streams, springs and irrigation systems are drying up coupled with the scarcity of potable water supply.

Acting on this report, Engineer Michael Tegui-in of the Ifugao Provincial Agriculture Office went to investigate and made an assessment of the situation confirming the report of the farmers.

He said that based on his assessment there are 6,051 hectares of irrigated and 674 hectares of rain-fed rice fields, which are already, affected in their vegetative, reproductive and maturity stages in the entire province.

The report indicated there are 3,660 hectares of rice fields in their vegetative stage, 1,287 hectares in their productive stage and 1,449 hectares in their maturity stage, which are lacking their irrigation supplies.

If these areas of planted rice will be totally damaged by the drought then it will affect the vital Rice Self-Sufficiency Program of Ifugao and the Department of Agriculture.

Worst hit is the municipality of Alfonso Lista with 1,450 hectares of rice farms affected followed by Aguinaldo with 1,022 hectares, Lamut with 963 hectares, Lagawe with 513 hectares and Asipulo with 467 hectares.

Tegui-in said that these areas are highly vulnerable to the El Nino hence they are preparing proposed interventions for funding and immediate implementation to prevent and mitigate the suffering and losses of the rice farmers.

Among the proposed projects and activities are the conduct of information campaign to the farmers and the people to enlighten them about the el Nino so they can in their own way cope with it.

Furthermore, their office will recommend to the DA and the Provincial Government the provision of small farm reservoirs, small water impounding projects, water pumps and advise the farmers to plant drought resistant crops such as leguminous crops, onions, garlic, squash, cassava, melon and others to earn income during the dry season. (Dan B. Codamon)