THE Department of Agriculture (DA) is strengthening its project of using solar power in irrigation system operation for the farmers not only as a way to promote efficient use of energy but for them to incur lesser production cost.

DA Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said that irrigation is a big contributing factor in the agricultural yield of the farmers in the country but it needs energy supply in order to operate.

Solar energy is an environment-friendly at the same time has lesser financial production cost.

“Mahalaga ito upang makatulong sa ating mga magsasaka at para magkaroon rin ng alternatibong pamamaraan sa pag-i-irrigate (This is important in order to help our farmers and for us to have an alternative way to irrigate),” Piñol said.

He added that this solar irrigation project will help around 5 million Filipino farmers have an alternative irrigation access in their farmlands.

The Census of Agriculture of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported 5.56 million farms covering 7.19 million hectares, which translated to an average area of 1.29 hectares per farm.

According to the same report, 99 percent or 5.51 million of the farms in the country were operated by the households or by individual persons. These farms covered 6.78 million hectares or an average area of 1.23 hectares per farm.

The Agriculture secretary said that one of the challenges in the country is our archipelagic geographical setting, which adds to the problem of the irrigation system.

“We are unlike China where Mekong River is there to water different plains or even Vietnam, and other Asean countries where the geographical setting allows them to have access for water,” Piñol said.

He said the DA seeks to address this concern by scaling the irrigation process adapting to the Philippine’s archipelagic setup.

“Merong mga bukid ng sakahan ngunit malayo ang access ng tubig kaya nabuo itong solar powered irrigation process (There are farms in the highlands but water accessibility is far, that’s why this solar-powered irrigation process came to be),” Piñol said.

“And we are targeting now over 500,000 hectares (ha) over the next years of the Duterte administration that will cost about P41 billion, and the president already approved that,” Piñol said, adding that if the budget will be divided for the remaining years of the president’s term, the target farmland hectares will be covered under the said irrigation project.

He also assured the farmers and local government unit officers that the irrigation project will cover every region in the country.