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)