Stricter rules on watershed management sought

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LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – Gov. Crescencio C. Pacalso wants the provincial board to enact an ordinance that will provide for stricter rules and the imposition of stiffer penalties against unscrupulous individuals who encroach into the province’s watersheds and forest reservations to prevent the quality of water from being compromised.

Pacalso made the pronouncement after learning that one of the primary reasons for the failure of local farmers to be certified for their good agricultural practices (GAP) and for practicing organic agriculture is the inability of the water being used by farmers in their plantation sites to pass the microbial test being undertaken for the purpose.

Aside from regulating man-made activities within forest reservations, he added there is also a need to strictly regulate the man-made activities in areas around watersheds to prevent the sources of water from being polluted thereby compromising the desire of farmers to acquire GAP certification and the full recognition of their organic agriculture practices.

While there are at least 2,000 farmers in the province who practice organic agriculture, Provincial Agriculturist Lolita Bentrez said only 4 local farms were able to acquire the coveted GAP certification after undergoing the stringent process of certification.

She disclosed the acidity of the soil and poor sanitation practices of farmers continue to hound the province’s agriculture sector hindering farmers from being able to be GAP-certified or acquire the pertinent documents indicating their practice of organic agriculture.

Pacalso underscored the importance of the compliance of vegetable farmers to the efforts of the government to shift to organic agriculture to help improve the income they can derive from producing quality organically-raised agricultural crops as these command higher prices in both the wholesale and retail markets.

“We support the shift of our farmers from the traditional chemical-based to organic farming so that we will sustain the production of quality vegetables that are in demand in the market through the provision of the necessary interventions that will significantly improve the state of the environment around the farms and improve water quality, among others,” Pacalso stressed.

Benguet remains to be the source of over 80 percent of the highland vegetables being distributed in the different parts of the country through the years, serving as the main livelihood of over 250,000 people in Benguet, and some parts of Mountain Province and Ifugao.

Among the highland vegetables that are regularly produced in the different vegetable-producing towns include carrots, cabbage, potatoes, beans, garden pea, cauliflower, pepper and tomatoes.

Bentrez claimed the local government continues to extend technical support to farmers who are interested to shift from chemical-based to organic farming to be able to hurdle the stringent requirements and achieve better standards in crop production.

By HENT

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