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Feature: Preemptive, quick disaster response makes PH agri resilient

Govt. Philippines
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QUEZON CITY, July 27 -- Aside from its regular programs on boosting productivity, the Department of Agriculture said it preemptive and quick disaster response mechanisms have enabled the agriculture sector become resilient from the adverse effects of calamities.

Agriculture Secretary Alcala in a statement said that for instance, despite considerable damage caused by typhoons on the industry, the country was able to attain in 2013 the highest rice harvest in history at 18.4 million metric tons.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) also reported that in 2013, the agriculture sector still managed to grow by 1.15 percent in terms of volume and 3.51 percent in terms of value.

“Likewise, from the PSA data, agricultural growth in terms of value in 2013 has actually tripled from the growth recorded in 2012 at 1.17 percent,” Alcala said.

Seed buffer stocking

Alcala said that one measure that has helped the sector cope up with the challenges of calamities and still register growth is seed buffer stocking. He recalled that when Typhoon Santi struck Central Luzon in October 2013, affected farmers received seeds from the DA’s buffer stocks not only from their region but also from the stocks of other regions. The availability of seeds ensured that no cropping season was missed.

“With seed buffer stocking, we have pre-positioned 10 percent of rice seed requirements of every region to enable quick replanting by farmers after calamities,” Alcala said.

Alcala stressed that as calamities have become more frequent and severe, the DA has strived to craft innovative measures to ensure that crops are immediately replaced and livelihoods are restored after these calamities.

The Secretary cited its experience with Yolanda, when the super typhoon-hit areas in Eastern Visayas were able to produce 201,722 metric tons of rice from 53,168 hectares land. Their farms yielded 8.6% more as the farmers, who previously did not have access to quality seeds, received certified seeds from the DA’s buffer stocks.

The Department has similarly provided quality seeds and other inputs for disaster-hit farmers planting other crops such as corn, root crops, fruits and vegetables.

“Bangkang Pinoy” for fisherfolk

But DA’s response efforts to Yolanda, as well as other calamities, have not only focused on crops as a significant portion of the devastated communities depends on fishing. Secretary Alcala explained that the DA has given special attention to fishers as they are the most disaster-vulnerable sectors, given their poverty incidence level and geographic location.

With the AHON! Rehabilitation Initiative of the DA-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR), the agency has been able to help at least 31,465 fisherfolk families and 103 fisherfolk associations to rebuild their boats or acquire new ones, enabling them to resume their fishing activities after the typhoon.

At least 5,000 Bangkang Pinoy fiberglass fishing boats have already been distributed to affected fisherfolk communities, enabling them to recover from their losses and contribute to the country’s fisheries production anew.

A component of the AHON! Rehabilitation Initiative, the Bangkang Pinoy project targets the distribution of at least 30,000 fishing boats for Yolanda-hit smallholder fisherfolk in the MIMAROPA, Central and Eastern Visayas regions.

These fiberglass fishing boats are sturdier and more durable, thus are cost-efficient than the traditional wooden boats. The distribution of these boats has helped realize the administration’s “build back better” rehabilitation approach.

Aside from boats, the DA-BFAR has provided motor engines and fishing gears as well for the Bangkang Pinoy beneficiaries.

During the Typhoon Ruby in 2014, the DA-BFAR has also deployed its pre-positioned multi-mission boats for quick response and relief operations in typhoon affected areas.

DA Undersecretary for Fisheries Asis Perez said that since after the onslaught of Yolanda, the DA-BFAR has pre-positioned multi-mission boats in strategic areas along expected typhoon corridors as a proactive measure to quickly respond to emergencies.

Insurance for farmers, fishers

Aside from providing material assistance to disaster-affected communities, the DA has likewise enhanced its existing insurance program for crops, livestock and fisheries.

“We are working within the context of changing climate and worsening disasters; hence, we want our existing programs such as insurance to be more responsive to the situations that confront our farmers and fishers,” Secretary Alcala said.

Through the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (PCIC), a government-owned and controlled corporation under the DA, the department has intensified insurance coverage of agricultural producers against losses of crops and non-crop agricultural assets due to natural calamities, pests and diseases, and other risk factors. Insurance has become a necessary component of the DA’s banner commodity programs.

Alcala stressed that in these times of unpredictable and extreme weather events, insurance for agricultural assets is indispensable to help farmers and fisherfolk recover faster from post-disaster losses.

Resiliency is sustainability

Secretary Alcala said that enabling agricultural producers become more resilient means making the agriculture sector as whole more sustainable.

“As our farmers and fishers recover more quickly from disasters, the overall agricultural growth is not compromised. This ensures the sector’s stable contribution to the country’s economy,” Alcala said, adding that livelihoods and food security are likewise protected.

The Secretary however stressed that response is not a stand alone strategy. He noted that a more resilient—and productive—agriculture industry also requires sustainable management and utilization of natural resources through practices such as multi-cropping, ecological agriculture and integrated pest management, among others. The DA has been promoting all these sustainable and climate-adaptive practices to complement disaster response programs. (DA)