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But the Levees are Dry!

I don’t want to appear a kontrabida but Rice self suffeciency by 2010, appears to be grandiose projection if not wishful thinking. State can only try. I think the projection is divorced of realism. Even if State pours all available resources towards that goal, the earliest that rice self-sufficiency can be attained in this country is probably decades away.

Miracle rice was developed by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Los Baños, Laguna in the time of President Ferdinand E. Marcos. It’s been all IR-Series Miracles since then. The Thais have learned rice culture in Laguna, Philippines. They have become rice exporter while we have remained traditional rice importer. I agree, maybe we have not seen the mother of all Miracles by IRRI yet.

Meanwhile, with our rain forests gone we are experiencing water shortages. What good are levees that are dry? In most part of the country, mechanized irrigation has to be employed by the time of the second cropping. We have that situation in most part of Negros Island. And I saw the same situation in Palawan as early as the mid 1990s. With rain forests gone and many rivers and or tributaries dry in summer, third cropping has become impossible in those places. In places where there is no assurance of a successful second cropping, farmers are prompted to plant corn or others, after the first crop. The situations could be nationwide.

Well, if you have read the report on the Billion-peso dam and irrigation system built in Bohol where there is no adequate river system. This reminds me of the old joke about a politician who swore that he will have a bridge built in place if elected. His aide whispered to him “Boss, there is no river in this Barangay.” “In that case let’s promise to build them a river first later”, said the politician.

This billion peso dam that started as a P300 Mn public work contract, which cannot be filled with water, is not really funny!

The press release by DENR Secretary Lito Atienza that central Luzon’s Rice lands won’t have water problem this year sounds very warm optimistic. But as we all know, Angat dam has got its perennial problem of critical low water level so that rationing between agricultural and other uses has been usual, and so that farmers have ceased to air their dissatisfaction.

Torrential flash floods during monsoon season and drier summer, to worsen in the years to come unless something is done about it, are what Filipinos should expect to live with.

The State has been a dismay in protecting our rain forests. A rain forest takes time to re-develop even if something is done to regenerate it. With big corporations backed by Malacañang eying our denuded forest-lands for Cassava and Jatropha Curcas, re-forestation now appears to be remote if not a forgotten objective. These programs could be indirectly poised against sustainable agriculture and rice production program.

Now it appears Mr Rodolfo Noel Lozada Jr., formerly with the DENR, has something to be thankful he is now nowhere driving away squatters in public lands just to push this Jatropha program.

Biofuels, sustainable agriculture, natural environment, economic exploitation of forest-lands, not to mind graft and corruption and social conflicts that may ensue from all them; I think we have a very complex and conflicting situations there.

Jatropha curcas as “Reforestation”? They are no more forest than Hagonoy shrubs that took over when rain forests were gone. Let alone by themselves, Hagonoy will naturally kill those Jatrophas. IF the issue is environmental protection, Hagonoy chosen by Mother Nature herself, is no doubt better than Cassava or Jatrophas that cannot defend themselves.

The oppositions to bio-fuels program citing it as counter productive might be hyped or bloated but I think the fears are not without basis. By some twists, I think, bio-fuels program could be indeed counter progressive. And we, Filipinos, are staring with that eyeball to eyeball right now! We have a situation in this part of the world.

Meanwhile, on with rice self-sufficiency at all cost. Are we really serious about it? Let’s do it, just do it!

3 Responses

  1. I really hope that the miracle rice can really give us the miraculous rice self-sufficiency that we need as soon as possible. Sadly though, agriculture is a science and miracles in science only happen when you put in the right strategies and hard work.

  2. The firsts IR-Series were high yielding dwarfs that are wind resistant, bird resistant and drought resistant. The latest craze being developed is one that can live for long under water as in flooded condition. I think those upland varieties need perfecting.

    A major part of our Agriculture is upland. Upland-rice farming is mostly done by subsistence farmers. These farmers sell Palay during harvest [to settle accounts and] to get cash for other needs. And then THEY BUY rice during lean months to augment augmenter root crops. IR-Series are not popular with these traditional farmers. They go for good smell and palatability – like Azucena, Kutseyam (red or white) to mention some. IRs are considered aroma less and tasteless.

    The term “Upland rice” farming applies to rice farming in sloping and rolling terrains. They are direct-rain fed. Rice is sown during the onset of the rainy season. Second crop is usually corn as they are just right for the dry season that follows. Dry season is fine with corn that are then in fruiting stage. In comparison, for Palay to flower and fruit during the dry months, will be total disaster.

    Rice varieties that will produce during the dry months would be one real miracle. Rice maturity around 100 days would be another real miracle. The most economical way is direct seeding. Three such (wetland-rice) crops per year usually take a little more than 365 days, at present.

    Traditional farmers have a habit of keeping the best part of their harvest for seeds. IR-Series are hybrids. They are not stable and will degenerate by the following generations. Later farmers think that they are no good. Farmers must replenish their seeds from seed banks. Many of them have been educated about that, but the problem is more of financial or economics.

  3. […] “Rice shortage gone”…DA Secretary Arthur Yap, in the time of President Arroyo assured rice self-sufficiency for the Philippines starting 2010. Time proved him a fool. […]

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