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Catching Rain
As a landlocked municipality without a natural body of water to irrigate its agricultural lands, San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte found its solution in an indigenous technique, catching the rain. As the project implies, it seeks to adopt viable and responsive measures to shifting weather patterns brought about by climate change through safe, indigenous, and environment- friendly means. One of the project’s strategies is expanding and maximizing the construction of earth dams, water reservoirs and irrigation systems since two earth dams or small water impounding projects (SWIP) have already been established in 1998 and 2000. To date, seven SWIPs, one on-going and three funded for future implementation, 56 small farm reservoirs (SFR), 227 shallow tube wells (STW), seven creeks, two diversion dams, and one catchment dam have already been established and devoted to agricultural production.
Through these various impounding systems, at least 483 hectares of agricultural land are now being irrigated during the dry season, benefitting at least 994 farmers. The multiple uses of the SWIPs also allowed members of the SWISA to have additional sources of income by way of other agricultural activities. The impounding systems were also used not only to irrigate agricultural lands during the dry season, but also served as fish production areas. Since 2010, the municipality through partner agricultural agencies, has distributed 581,500 fingerlings to 5,394 recipients, who have produced a total harvest of 38,665 kilos valued at PhP3,866,500. The transformation of the farmlands into irrigated areas has enabled the farmers to plant twice a year, plant vegetable crops in a wider area and engage in livestock production. Water table became higher, hence, expansion of areas for crop production has also been made possible. The average production per hectare in rice now ranges from 5.5 to 5.75 tons per hectare from only 3.8 to 4.1 tons per hectare before the project.
Aside from improving productivity, the SWIPs, water reservoirs, and irrigation systems prevent siltation and soil erosion. These also served as recreational areas and tourist spots especially when migratory birds flock to the areas. The management and protection of the earth dams, small farm reservoirs, irrigation and water systems have been a shared responsibility among the municipal government through the Office of the Mayor and Municipal Agriculture, concerned farmers and irrigators associations, and the barangays with technical assistance from the Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Soils and Water Management, Department of Agrarian Reform and National Irrigation Administration. Personnel from the municipal government and assigned members of the associations constitute a team to constantly monitor the affected areas. Collection of irrigations fees have been established pursuant to the 2007 Tripartite Agreement among the LGU, NIA, and Irrigators Association.
Additionally, the program also improved agricultural literacy of its farmers and other beneficiaries with the establishment of 24 Community Learning Centers in the barangays and eight farmer field schools. Under these establishments, the municipal government, through the Municipal Agriculture Office, has conducted 39 trainings and seminars since 2010. The activities have produced successful farmers and irrigators with around 37 awardees, 15 of which are provincial awardees, 14 regional awardees, and eight national awardees. The DA has also sponsored training programs benefiting 1,512 individuals. To pay forward, these awardees and trainees serve as trainers for young farmers and irrigators.
To sustain the momentum of the program, various legislations such as Prescribing the Utilization and Sustainability of Irrigation Waters and Conservation of Irrigation Facilities and Services (PUSWAC) Ordinance were enacted to integrate the program in municipal plans. The Sangguniang Bayan also authorized the local chief executive to enter into memorandum of agreement (MOAs) with different institutions to further strengthen and improve project implementation.
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