M'LANG , North Cotabato, Feb 8 (PIA) -- Despite his age, farmer Antonio Jugos foresees a brighter future for him and fellow farmers in remote Barangay New Janiuay in M'lang, North Cotabato.
"During dry seasons, farmers here often suffer losses along with the drying up of our irrigation," 79-year old Jugos says in Hiligaynon. “Having a solar-powered irrigation system is a great favor as we are now assured of constant supply of water, the most important resource in rice production."
Jugos owns the 5-hectare rice field where the Philippines' first solar-powered irrigation system being piloted.
President Rodrigo Duterte and Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol led the launching of the prototype solar-powered irrigation project in Barangay Janiuay on Friday, (Feb. 3).
The prototype solar-powered irrigation system in M'lang, runs a 10-horsepower water pump capable of drawing out 1,000 gallons of water in intensely hot days and 400 gallons of water in overcast days.
"The system could irrigate 100 to 150 hectares with a development cost of only P50,000 to P60,000 per hectare, as against the NIA (National Irrigation Administration) cost of up to P400,000 per hectare, says Secretary Piñol as he elaborates the merits of the project.
Since it uses PVC pipes instead of canals for water dispensation, it also address several concerns such as leakage, seepage and evaporation, thus, cutting down water wastage, which is common in the traditional irrigation system.
Compared to constructing dams which could take years, establishing a solar-powered irrigation system is a breeze: a crew of at least 10 workers can put in place an fully functional irrigation system in less than a month .
"Theoretically, if each of the 15 regional offices of the DA would engage 20 working teams, the DA through the Bureau of Soils and Water Management could irrigate 1.44 million hectares of rain-fed areas within the next four years of the Duterte administration," the agriculture secretary emphasizes.
In Jugos' eyes, however, the benefits are immediate: better chances for an uninterrupted, year-long rice production and better income not only for him but also for his fellow farmers.
"Like me, at least 25 farmers in our village are being served by the irrigation system. They are also grateful because without the continuous supply of water their rice fields will still incur losses especially during long dry seasons," the elderly farmer stresses.
Apart from irrigating rice fields, the solar irrigation system has also introduced an additional livelihood for Jugos and potentially other farmers who wish to ameliorate their living conditions.
Three large cylindrical tanks take prominence in Jugo's farm. Called "Circle of Life" this series of tanks, also powered by the solar-powered irrigation system, is a facility for tilapia production. The same facility can also be used for production of vegetables through aquaponics system, a technology where waste from fish farming is used as nutrients for plants grown hydroponically.
A single Circle of Life setup can accommodate up to 10,000 fingerlings.
As with the solar-powered irrigation system, the Department of Agriculture will also spearhead the establishment of Circle of Life facilities across the country. (DEDoguiles-PIA12)