By Ali G. Macabalang
TARAKA, Lanao del Sur – Collaborating government officials are set to kick off the operations of solar-powered irrigation and water supply systems here in pursuit of their quest to make this towns the nation’s model of economic enterprise and inspire other Bangsamoro-ruled towns to transcend from decades of reliance to internal revenue allotment (IRA) in their administrative operations and service deliveries.
The initial operation of six solar-powered irrigation system (SPIS) units and a huge solar-powered waterworks system (SPWS) to irrigate 700 hectares of farm lands and end the residents’ old risky use of river water for cooking and drinking, according to Taraka Mayor Nashiba Sumagayan.
Sumagayan, a former university professor-turned-politician, said her constituents, especially farmers “are so eager” about the feasibility of the vision, citing the consistent backing of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).
MinDA Chairman Manny Piñol said he and DBP President Emmanuel Herbosa will return to this town on August 10 and administer the inaugural operations of three of the SPIS units to start irrigating at least 300 hectares initially.
Secretary Piñol he would be bringing along engineer-turned-successful farmer Danilo Bolos to orient Taraka farmers on the modern hybrid rice farming technology that earned for him the accolade achieving 17 tons of produce every hectare per harvest – the biggest volume ever recorded in the Philippine agriculture history.
Bolo, a former overseas Filipino worker from Sat. Rosa, Nueva Ecija, has agreed to come and share with farmers here his secrets in reaping unprecedented magnitude of harvests that made a great difference for his family, he said.
Sec. Piñol came here for the nth time on July 14 and presided a consultative meeting with Taraka officials led by the lady Mayor and cluster leaders of farmers, who agreed that “only premium rice varieties with good eating quality will be planted in the area” to be irrigated by the six SPIS units, MinDA Media Relations Chief Dr. Adrian Tamayo said.
“Maranaos are known to be very particular about the eating quality of rice they buy,” Pinol said, adding that SPIS-served farmers agreed to initially sow US 88, a hybrid premium rice variety, and NSIC RC 160 in the last planting season this year.
Simultaneous with planting activities, MinDA and Taraka officials will put up a rice varietal trial area here to determine what other premium rice varieties will perform well in this town, he said.
Value chain concept
Piñol said the MinDA has introduced the complete value chain concept in Taraka’s rice production program that will involve stakeholders from planting to processing and marketing as a stepping stone to making this town a paragon of Muslim premium rice enterprise model in the country.
The Philippine Rice Research Institute, the Ministry of Agriculture of BARMM, the Northern Mindanao Office of the Department of Agriculture and PhilMech are supporting the project, he said.
Since Taraka does not have a rice processing facility yet, its produce will be brought to a modern rice mill in nearby North Cotabato where it will be packed with proper branding, he said.
The packed Taraka premium rice will then be shipped back here for sale to Maranao consumers in Lanao del Sur and other areas of the country, notably in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), Sec. Piñol said.
“Hindi na kami aasa sa imported rice. We will plant and eat our own premium rice, and the rest will be sold outside,” Piñol quoted Mayor Sumagayan as saying.
The six SPIS units and huge solar-powered water system to produce potable water are funded by the DBP under the MinDAWater Program of MinDA in partnership with the state bank and the DILG, he said.
“Taraka is the first local government unit in the country to fund the establishment of Solar-Powered Irrigation Systems which would enable its farmers to plant twice a year,” Piñol said.
The introduction here of the solar-powered irrigation and waterworks systems are coupled with equally MinDA-aided livestock raising, vegetable farming and other life enhancing packages, Dr. Tamayo said.
Taraka is one of the oldest towns in the provinces where most if not all local government units have been dependent principally on IRA subsidies for decades. Less affluent resident families have also been sourcing out drinking water from the Taraka River, a practice exposing in-takers to higher tendencies for diarrhea and other related ailments.
For one, such inadequacies are expected to end upon the operation of the SPIS and waterworks systems. (AGM)