Dry spell affects water supply, food production in Albay

MALINAO, Albay, July 7 (PNA) — The dry spell that has hit the country has discouraged farmers in Albay from cultivating their farmlands, specially rice lands that are rainfed or irrigated with water from the aquifer.

Hundreds of hectares of farmland across the province have turned barren or wasteland, specifically the rainfed areas, as even rivers and wells have dried up due to the erratic climate here.

Ed Yu, regional spokesman of the National Irrigation Administration in Bicol, said around 180 hectares of rice lands in Albay are affected by drought, even as they are with irrigation systems.

“The affected area in Albay is the 3rd district, with around 130 hectares covered by communal irrigation system (CIS) and 50 hectares covered by Mahaba-Nasisi-Ogsong-Hibiga river irrigation system — also located in 3rd District. All other areas covered by the NIA’s NIS in other Bicol provinces have no reported areas affected,” Yu said.

Communal are small irrigation systems (less than 1,000 hectares) which are managed by irrigators’ associations.

The 180 hectares of rice lands affected by drought, according to Yu, are areas with irrigation systems.

As to rainfed, he said they had not received concrete data report from local government units as they are only monitoring the farmlands with irrigation facilities.

“Those areas heavily affected by the dry spell in the 1st quarter were the rainfed areas or farms not covered by irrigation systems. What we do is implement rotation method of water distribution in case of dry spell,” Yu said.

The dry spell in Albay is not only affecting drinking water but also food production as thousands of farmers could no longer till their farmlands due to the absence of rainwater.

Data from Albay Provincial Agricultural Office showed that the rice area planted last year was about 51,748.74 hectares during both dry and wet seasons.

The town of Libon has the biggest area planted, with 5,359 hectares; followed by Oas with 2,567 hectares; and Polangui, 2,415 hectares.

Production for same year was posted at 213,130.88 metric tons (MT).

Of this production, 89,914.96 MT were produced from irrigated areas, 18,655.66 MT from rainfed and 295.85 MT from upland.

The Provincial Agricultural Service Office reported that rice sufficiency achieved last year was only 92.83 percent with 4.12 MT yield.

The average rice consumption in the province has been placed at 108.63 kilograms per capita.

Albay has 24,264 farmers wherein labor absorption by the rice industry is the highest among the agriculture sub-sectors involving farmers and family members.

This year, many rice farmers expressed apprehension as famine may affect their families as rice production has been badly affected by the erratic climate triggered by climate change. (PNA)