As livelihood recovery efforts continue, farmers in the rice-producing provinces of Aurora and Nueva Ecija are optimistic that the upcoming harvest can help them rebound from the devastating impacts of Typhoon Sarika and Super Typhoon Haima (local names: Karen and Lawin).
At least 4 300 families that were able to replant their damaged farms with assistance from the Department of Agriculture (DA) are currently receiving supplemental fertilizer and other farm inputs from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
“Proper fertilization will help improve the volume and quality of their yield. Fertilizer can be costly and many farmers are unable to do the required follow through at certain stages of crop growth, especially when they are already stuck in a cycle of debt,” said FAO Representative in the Philippines José Luis Fernández.
“Without timely and adequate support, the production capacity of rice farmers could be compromised. This would result in lower incomes and overall reduced supply of staple food at the end of the current cropping season,” he added.
The two typhoons, which swept at least 31 provinces in seven regions of the country last October, left USD233 million in production losses to the agriculture sector. More than a quarter of affected farmers are in Aurora and Nueva Ecija – communities that are still struggling to recover from successive typhoons, dry spells and droughts from 2015 to 2016.
“We lost about 80 percent of our palay this time. This was painful for us since our family only relies on this for all of our needs. The burden is even greater for us as women because we have to worry about how our families will eat three times a day,” narrated Gilda Agustin, a farmer from Barangay Palayag, Cabanatuan City.
“Now that the weather is good, we have hope. We are doing our best to fertilize our crops. This is why the fertilizer that FAO is delivering is very timely. It will increase our yield come March or April and there’s a chance that we can fully recover for as long as we can sustain this,” added Florentino Policarpio of Barangay Palayag.
A total of 8 600 bags of urea fertilizer are currently being distributed to eight hard-hit municipalities to help ensure that the most affected and vulnerable farmers would be able to harvest rice by April 2017. This includes Maria Aurora, Dipaculao, Baler and Casiguran in Aurora Province; and San Jose, Muñoz, Sta. Rosa and Cabanatuan City in Nueva Ecija. The fertilizer support is also supplemented by 4 300 sets of assorted vegetable seeds and farm tools to address some of the immediate food and nutrition needs of affected families.
Strengthening resilience and response capacities
The DA, with support from FAO, launched drone-aided post-disaster mapping missions in areas affected by typhoons Sarika and Haima. The information gathered by field teams was subsequently processed at the FAO-supported Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Operations Centre in Quezon City, and used by the government for response and rehabilitation planning.
As part of its livelihood recovery response, FAO will also conduct training programmes for provincial and municipal agricultural technicians, extension workers and local farmer trainers on resilient rice-based farming systems. The training modules will then be integrated into the government’s regular extension activities and technical advisory services for farmers. Technical assistance will also be provided at the regional level to strengthen the disaster response capacities of DA staff.