LUBA, ABRA - NASA's motto in the hunt for extraterrestrial life has been "follow the water."
Scientists claim they found water in Mars. I do not know if that is really important.
Can people and animals breathe the air in the Planet Mars and live? Our scientists, whom earthlings have endowed with formidable resources throughout the decades, admit that they have not yet found any living creature in outer space beside the Earth.
Meanwhile, back here where water was meant to be found everywhere as a life-giving fluid, it is fast becoming scarce.
And where water does not flow anymore, there is hardly any life to be found there, indeed.
Water must be managed well to give life to plants. That is humanity’s role, in addition to taking good care of plants as a green covering of the land to conserve water.
That role challenged Mr. Francisco Bringas “Dawayen”, 77 years old, and a retired road maintenance foreman, from Bucloc, Abra, when he sought out to reforest a barren and sloping land some twenty years ago.
It is actually an abandoned kaingin, where weeds and grass grow during the rainy season but dry and exposed to the heat of the sun during summer.
Agricultural crops including trees would hardly thrive in this land unless it is irrigated and rejuvenated with care. But how can you reforest a land like that when the source of irrigation water flows some distance downhill?
Mr. Bringas succeeded in doing the impossible by planting one hectare of barren kaingin land following the A-frame technology with bananas, rambutan, durian, lanzones, mangosteen, and guyabano trees during the rainy season.
He continued watering the trees during the summer months to fully root the trees and ensure their survival.
For irrigation, he improvised a drip irrigation technique using the bamboo tube, called “tubong” in the local dialect.
The bamboo tubes were wired to a pole and allowed to stand beside the plants.
Water is released from the bamboo tube through a pinhole at the bottom. The water drips slowly to the surface of the soil directly above the root system of the growing plant beside it in a day or two.
This improvised and simple drip irrigation method preserves the soil, prevents nutrient leaching, and promotes soil aeration.
Most important, it supplies the water needs of the plants efficiently, with wastage that happens when you irrigate plants by pouring water on them.
Today several people’s organizations (POs) in the highlands of Abra that are currently being assisted by the CHARMP2 Scale-Up Project are now maintaining and regenerating a total of 15 hectares of kaingin lands planted to rambutan, lansones, and coffee following the practice introduced by Mr. Bringas in reforesting a kaingin sometime in 1997-2004 with assistance from the Department of Agriculture-Cordillera Highland Agricultural Resource Management (CHARM) Project.
The POs being assisted by the CHARM2 Scale-Up Project in Maligcong and Luba are using bamboo Tubes (Tubong) and/or 1.5-liter plastic containers that they also hang above the plants to drip water into the soil surface.
They are also practicing mulching using rice straw, grasses and any locally available material to cover, shade, and preserve soil moisture.
Mr. Bringas is bedridden now, but interviewed by Ms. Mary Jane Maguide, CHARMP2 Scale Up staff along with Mr. Arnel Valdez, Provincial Planning and Development Coordinator (PPDC) of Abra, he said that people come to their house to taste the fruits of his plants, some will buy, but most of the harvests were brought and sold in Bucloc town or in Bangued.
For marginalized communities in the highlands of the Cordillera, Mr. Bringas left a lasting legacy, a way to preserve water and life, and keep it flowing downstream so others may also live.