December 1, 2023

The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), which is mandated to implement the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program and provide small farmers with various support services to help fight hunger and rural poverty, announced on July 20 that turnover of P10-million solar. -powered communal irrigation systems to farmers-irrigators in Quezon Province.

The project, implemented by the DAR with the National Irrigation Administration, will benefit 53 farmer-members of an irrigation association and irrigate 35 hectares.

Action on climate change

DAR has deployed smaller solar-powered irrigation projects in various parts of the country in the past five years. It aims to empower farming communities in remote barangays in various parts of the country, through solar energy.

The Solar Power Irrigation System (SPIS) Project is one of DAR’s responses to the implementation of the Climate Change Act of 2009.

Ricky P. Sunga, SPIS project head, said that irrigation systems have been installed in agrarian reform communities, especially in areas allocated to cash crops without irrigation.

The SPIS Project involves the use of an irrigation system powered by solar energy using open water sources, such as lakes, rivers, streams, and even streams.

“It’s very effective, especially in areas that don’t have irrigation or even electricity,” Sunga told the Filipino side of the BusinessMirror in a phone interview on July 12.

No electricity costs

Among the advantages of the project are not using fuel or electricity, easy installation in remote areas, use of renewable energy, and suitability for remote watershed and rain-fed areas.

More importantly, he said, it is free.

“Because it’s solar powered, they don’t need to spend on diesel, especially now that the price of diesel is going up,” he added.

The initial implementation of the project is in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Soils and Water Management (DA-BSWM) through a memorandum of agreement and has an initial funding of P10 million.

Under the partnership, DA-BSWM adopted SPIS technology, while DAR’s role was to identify project areas and beneficiaries.

The project is implemented in 15 pilot sites with a fund of P1 million per site.

Due to the relatively good performance of the pilot implementation of the project, SPIS was integrated into the enhanced implementation of the Agrarian Reform Connectivity and Enterprise Support Services Program of the DAR and its successor program, the Climate Resilient and Farm Productivity Support Program.

Environmentally friendly

According to Sunga, the project is environment-friendly and promotes sustainable farming.

According to him, many of the farmers are happy because they can use renewable energy to plant and harvest vegetables without using diesel.

For Leon Dulce, national coordinator of Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment, the use of solar power to irrigate remote farming villages is a welcome initiative.

“The use of solar power for irrigation mechanization and rural electrification, in general, will help solve the country’s 40 percent gap in irrigation coverage without further contributing to carbon emissions and air pollution,” he said when was asked to comment on the matter.

He added that decentralized irrigation also removes the system from intensive centralized sources, such as mega-dams.

“This, however, requires careful regulations around particular solar irrigation projects far from surface water sources to prevent excessive extraction from groundwater sources,” he warned.

Better than diesel

However, using renewable energy is much better than oil-based fuel.

“Diesel-based irrigation pumps pose threats to air pollution, toxins and other harmful effects on biodiversity found in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems,” he said.

Farming is a major cause of biodiversity loss. The conversion of unnatural habitats of plant and animal wildlife for the purpose of food production results in massive habitat destruction causing the extinction of many plant and animal species.

Farms are always associated with animals. Apart from farm animals such as carabaos, cows, horses, goats and dogs, farms also provide food and shelter for animals such as birds, snakes, lizards, rats, fish, snails, small crabs, starlings , bees and butterflies.

Agricultural biodiversity

According to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), biodiversity is the basis of agriculture.

“This has enabled farming systems to evolve since agriculture was first developed about 10,000 years ago. Biodiversity is the origin of all species of plants and domestic animals and the diversity within them,” the CBD said on its website.

“It is also the foundation of ecosystem services essential to sustainable agriculture and human well-being. Today’s crop and livestock biodiversity is the result of thousands of years of human intervention,” it added.

Strongly related

Furthermore, the CBD states that biodiversity and agriculture are strongly related because while biodiversity is critical for agriculture, agriculture can also contribute to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.

“In fact, sustainable agriculture both promotes and enhances biodiversity. Maintaining biodiversity is essential for the sustainable production of food and other agricultural products and the benefits it provides to humanity, including food security, nutrition, and livelihoods,” it said.

Therefore, the CBD Conference of Parties recognized “the special nature of agricultural biodiversity, its unique features, and problems that require different solutions”

In essence, it says that agricultural biodiversity is essential to satisfy the basic human need for food security and livelihood.

Valuable ecosystem service

Theresa Mundita S. Lim, executive director of the Asean Center for Biodiversity, told the BusinessMirror in an interview via Messenger on July 20 that in fact agrobiodiversity constitutes the link between the biodiversity of natural ecosystems and the components managed by humans. .

“Food and livelihoods are among the valuable ecosystem services provided by thriving biodiversity, but while resources may be limited, we must ensure that they are used and managed sustainably,” said Lim, an international expert on biodiversity.

He said: “The first step in moving to a more sustainable and healthy food system is to start moving towards biodiversity – or environmentally neutral, or even a biodiversity – or environmentally positive agricultural practices. .”

Less emission, better

“One that has a lot of potential to contribute to this change is these solar-powered irrigation systems. Solar-powered irrigation contributes to cleaner air and reduces carbon emission, thus, it helps to support a healthier environment for all species. [including bees] to survive,” added Lim.

In addition, Lim, former director of the Biodiversity Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said that solar-powered irrigation systems leave a small carbon footprint in the natural ecosystem, compared to large irrigation dams.

“The inclusion of small rainwater catchments will reduce excess water extraction from natural freshwater ecosystems which will help prevent wetlands from permanently drying out. These wetlands are likely the level will decrease during the dry season, but it is still necessary to maintain moisture or a small amount of water to support various important organisms that grow and seek shelter in the clay soil,” he said.

According to Lim, freshwater ecosystems also support native fisheries, some of which migrate to and from major rivers to the sea to complete their life cycles.

“Small-scale solar-powered irrigation systems do not have such a large impact because they are not expected to redirect natural water channels that affect the normal life cycle or movement of critical species of water,” he explained.

According to Lim, inland water biodiversity provides a variety of healthy protein sources for communities and, for some indigenous people, may be linked to their tradition and culture.

“Irrigation systems, in the end, may be more efficient, economical, and sustainable,” he said.

Image credits: Photos by DAR Public Assistance and Media Relations Service, DAR Public Assistance and Media Relations Service

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