World Bank Ok P256m Irrigation Project In Davao Oriental

By Ferdinand Zuasola 

The P256 million irrigation project in the municipality of Cateel, Davao Oriental has finally started after the World Bank which bankrolls half of the cost of the big-ticket irrigation project here has issued a “No Objection Letter” paving the way for the start of construction activities that includes the building of a dam and canal structures over a period of two years.

The Cateel irrigation project, touted to be one of the biggest irrigation projects in Mindanao, is set to irrigate at least 1,600 hectares of rice fields in that second-class municipality. Davao Oriental Governor Corazon Malanyaon, herself a native of Cateel town, says that the municipality will now become the rice granary of Davao Oriental. The governor disclosed that the provincial government have already successfully bid out the Cateel irrigation project which is to be divided in three packages: one for the diversion works or dam construction with fish ladder amounting P139 million, and another package for canalization amounting P65.62 million and the construction of canal structures worth P7 million.

“This priority project is a valuable investment to develop the rice production potentials of the province. We have a wide rice field capable of producing enough grains. We see that this irrigation system can help us achieve food sufficiency in the province and contribute to the country’s food security,” says Governor Malanyaon. She says it will greatly benefit the local rice farmers and also create other livelihood opportunities. “If there would be enough livelihood, farmers will have sufficient income to sustain their basic needs,” says Governor Malanyaon.

Local government officials here say that the wide plain of rain-fed areas in the municipality of Cateel remain un-irrigated for more than three decades due to lack of funding support from the government. Local farmers say that during a dry period especially a long dry spell has severe effects on their rice output. And the erratic weather conditions here have also greatly affected farming communities. Local rice farmers say that tapping the huge water reserve of Cateel River by channeling its flow through 1,600-hectare rice farms will significantly boost their rice production. They say it will increase its cropping periods from two to three times every year, and increase its yield capacity from three tons to seven tons per hectare. They also believe that the new irrigation project here will increase their income from P60,000 to 70,000 per year.

The Cateel irrigation project is a joint investment of the provincial government and the Department of Agriculture – Mindanao Rural Development Program (DA—MRDP). The MRDP is a poverty-alleviation initiative implemented through the Department of Agriculture and it is jointly funded by the World Bank, national government and local government units covering Mindanao’s 26 provinces and 225 municipalities. The program seeks to improve rural incomes and achieve food security through agri-fishery infrastructure, livelihood enterprise and biodiversity conservation projects.

The province of Davao Oriental will also receive a P10 million worth of livelihood projects from the MRDP under the Community Fund for Agricultural Development, while the municipalities of San Isidro and Governor Generoso are now the beneficiaries of environment conservation projects under the program’s Natural Resources Management component. Except for the town of Manay, nine municipalities and one city in the province are recipients of the MRDP projects. These are the municipalities of Governor Generoso, Tarragona, San Isidro, Lupon, Caraga, Banaybanay, Boston, Baganga, Cateel, and the City of Mati.

MRDP says that Davao Oriental’s rich and vast natural resources promises to solve rural poverty in this part of the country, the reason why a huge chunk of its budget will be poured to this province.  At least P425 million was allotted for MRDP projects in Davao Oriental that includes the P256 million Cateel irrigation project. Governor Malanyaon says she was elated that during a gathering of Mindanao’s provincial governors and mayors in Cagayan de Oro City, a top official of the World Bank had specifically recognized the province of Davao Oriental  for its huge potentials in food production.

The governor is so grateful to the MRDP and the national government agencies, saying that their “overwhelming support” would enable her to achieve her administration’s goal of food sufficiency and transform her province into a top producer of rice in the country. “As we are an agricultural area, we need to invest in agricultural infrastructure and sustainable livelihoods to maximize our production potentials as this will help farmers to improve their income and other economic opportunities for my constituents,” says the governor.

Lealyn Ramos, MRDP’s Program Director, says they have earlier earmarked a total of P271.93 million for the two irrigation projects in Sulop, Davao del Sur and in Cateel, Davao Oriental. “We are happy of the active response of the LGUs in the Davao Region especially in accessing irrigation projects as this is among the priority projects of the present administration in order to attain rice sufficiency,” says Ramos. “Rice production depends on water supply, we need not to overemphasize the key role it (irrigation) plays in attaining our goal to have a sufficient rice supply,” she adds.

The Cateel irrigation project will provide sustainable irrigation water to approximately 1,600 hectares of suitable rice lands covering the eleven barangays of Taytayan, Poblacion, San Alfonso, Alegria, San Rafael, San Antonio, Santa Felomina, San Vicente, Abejod, San Miguel and Mainit. “This irrigation project in Davao Oriental is so far the biggest we have and it covers 1,600 hectares,” says Ramos. Under the Rural Infrastructure component of  MRDP, the project follows the 50:50 cost-sharing scheme where half of the project cost is to be shouldered by the program funds while the remaining half by the LGU.

“But in our case, we are able to work it out with some national government agencies to provide us also with a counterpart funds. Thus, for all the projects that we are going to avail under the MRDP, we are only putting ten percent equity,” says Governor Malanyaon during her talk with the heads of offices of the provincial government.

Governor Malanyaon believe the Cateel Irrigation Project will create many opportunities that could significantly generate good income like from warehousing, rice milling, urban services and many others.

The provincial government will create the Davao Oriental Irrigation Management Office to be headed by Governor Malanyaon whose task is to oversee and supervise the planning and implementation of the project.

Local officials say that since the source of water for irrigation is the Cateel River, a watershed management protection program will be crafted. Local government units surrounding the Cateel watershed area like the municipalities of Lingig in Surigao province, Compostela of the Compostela Valley province, and Boston and Baganga of Davao Oriental are enjoined to protect the watershed area by observing strict implementation of all environmental laws, rules and regulations in order to ensure the sustainability of water supply coming from the watershed.

The provincial government’s Rice Sufficiency Program have set a goal of achieving rice sufficiency by 2016. Governor Malanyaon aims to increase rice production in Davao Oriental from 39,791 metric tons in 2007 to 103,600 metric tons in 2016. She says the existing irrigated area of 5,010 hectares will be increased to 8,000 hectares by 2016. The governor is confident of achieving her highly ambitious goals as she intends to pursue her rice seeds subsidy for the farmers including the continuing expansion of irrigated areas and effective operation of existing irrigation systems and development of small water impounding and drip irrigation systems. She vows to continue to give more post harvest facilities and technology support to the farmers including credit support and build more all-weather farm-to-market roads.

A total of 238,680 hectares in the province is classified as an agricultural area of which 89 percent or 214,168 hectares are crops land. The largest portion of the area is planted to coconut which constitute 160,638 hectares, making Davao Oriental the largest producer of coconut in the country. The provincial government is employing the Accelerated Production Area Development (APAD) approach as a development strategy. It will identify certain areas best suited for specific products based on the agro-climatic suitability and availability of markets for those products. Government support would then be focused in priority areas to ensure efficient utilization of scarce resources and so the farmers would get the best return on their investments.

 

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