Rainfed agricultural lands to get boost

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Realizing the crucial role of rainfed agriculture to food security, the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) has entered into an agreement with India-based International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (Icrisat) for the implementation of the “bhoochetana” program in three regions in the Philippines.

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Dubbed as the “Pananariwa ng Lupa,” BAR Director Nicomedes Eleazar said that the program aims to improve rural livelihoods by developing resilient rainfed agriculture sector for sustainable rural growth and inclusive development through the adaptation of the bhoochetana principles and approach.

The term bhoochetana means, “reviving the soils” through science-led integrated approach.

Eleazar said that the initial implementation of the project will include Region 4A (Quezon), Region 8 (Samar) and Region 9 (Zamboanga). Each pilot region shall target least 10,0000 hectares of rain-fed land to include in the project, involving 10,000 farmers in each area.

He said that BAR has committed P27 million for the program implementation, which includes the creation of soil fertility map.

“We will allocate P3 million annually, over the next three years, to each region for the soil fertility mapping, wherein we will assess soil health status including micro and macro nutrient contents,” he said.

The BAR chief also said that they will also identify best-bet options—soil, crop and water management—including improved cultivars to enhance the productivity at selected crops by 20 percent.

The program implementation will also include capacity building of stakeholders, sustainable management of natural resources and development of a model for scaling-up the benefits through innovative platform with enabled policies and supply chains needed for achieving the impact.

William Dar, director general of Icrisat, said that government should adopt the bhoochetana program throughout the Philippines, which is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change.

“The country must implement a new paradigm of resilience, or face 30- to 40-percent reduction in yields,” he said.

Rainfed agriculture, farming practices that rely on rainfall for water, covers 80 percent of the overall physical agricultural area of the world.

In the Philippines, rainfed agriculture is an important sector, covering 75 percent of the 10 million hectares of its total cultivated area. Important as it is, rainfed agriculture is a neglected sector, receiving little investment and policy support despite contributing about 40 percent of total food production supply in the country.

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