661 hectares to be irrigated next year says NIA Official

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LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – Some 661 hectares of rice farms in the different parts of the Cordillera will be irrigated next year bringing to a total of 56,091 hectares the number of irrigated agricultural farms regionwide that will help in uplifting the production of farmers, an irrigation official said here.

Engr. John Socalo, regional manager of the Cordillera office of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA-CAR), said some 90,000 farmers from the different parts of the region are now benefitting from the increasing number of irrigated rice farms which will definitely contribute to the increased rice production in areas covered by the national irrigation systems and communal irrigation systems being managed by the agency.

“We have to be aggressive in the completion of our developed projects so that they will be irrigated and farmers will benefit from the availability of irrigation for their rice farms,” Socalo stressed.

Socalo explained of the total 56,091 hectares of rice farms, close to 16,000 hectares are under the national irrigation systems while the remaining 40,000 hectares are communal irrigation systems located in the six provinces of the Cordillera.

He disclosed the three national irrigation systems found in the region are the Hapid irrigation system in Ifugao, the Upper Chico River Irrigation System in Kalinga and the West Abulug irrigation system in Apayao which provide irrigation to nearly 14,000 rice farmers availing of the said systems.

On the other hand, some 76,000 farmers are benefiting from the 40,000 hectares being irrigated by the different communal systems found in the six provinces of the region.

Socalo explained national irrigation systems are said to be the ones providing irrigation to service areas with more than 1,000 hectares of rice farms while communal irrigation systems provide irrigation to small rice farms regionwide.

“We need to improve on our average of 61 percent collection efficiency from our beneficiaries in order to improve the financial condition of our agency. While it is true that it is the responsibility of the farmers to pay their obligations to the government for the irrigation services, we still have to go to them to collect thereby contributing to the wastage of our valuable time,”Socalo said.

He cited NIA officials and employees must be quick to the draw in monitoring the harvest season for the dry and wet croppings so that they could immediately collect the irrigation fees from the farmers or else they will be left hanging in the air if they will not go to them and demand for such payment from their harvests.

Under the policy, farmers should pay the agency irrigation fees equivalent to 3 cavans of palay per hectare priced at the buying price of the National Food Authority (NFA) for the wet cropping season and 2 cavans of palay for the dry cropping season.

In 2010, there were only 43,718 hectares of irrigated farmlands in the region before it increased to 44,912 in 2011, then jumped to 48,358 hectares in 2012, increased again to 52,336 hectares in 2013 and ballooned to 55,430 hectares in 2014.

Socalo appealed to the farmers to be responsible in religiously settling their irrigation fees with the agency instead of awaiting demand letters to be sent to them.

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