By: Catherine S. Jimenez, DA-RAFIS, DA-RFO 02, Tuguegarao City, Cagayan

One of the longest wars that the Philippines is still facing up to these days is the battle against poverty and underdevelopment.

To win the battle, there is a need to harness national and local resources which will pave way for the attainment of food security and acceleration of agricultural growth and rural development in the entire country.

One of the government’s best strategies to win the battle is the collaboration, complementation, and harmonization of resources of the Department of Agriculture, Department of Agrarian Reform, Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Department of Interior and Local Government (DA-DAR-DENR-DILG) which paved way for the National Convergence Initiatives for Sustainable Rural Development (NCI-SRD).


Launching of LAEC in Isabela

The LAEC Isabela Pilot Cluster was launched in Cauayan City, Isabela on February 23, 2011. The convergence cluster composed of fourteen (14) municipalities with rice, coffee, and sugarcane (for ethanol) as main commodities with committed budget amounting Php551 million.

“Sa pagsasama ng apat na ahensiya ng pamahalaan ay sumesentro sa patuloy na pagapayabong ng ating produksyon sa palay, tubo at kape na ito ay sumasakop sa labing apat na munisipiyo at cities ng probinsya ng Isabela. Dahil po dapat tukuyin kung nasaan ang mga proyektong ito at kung ano ang kanyang mga ginagawa ay nagkaisa po ang apat na ahensiya na pagkaisahin ang kanilang effort para sa ganun mas mabilis ang pagsasagawa ng mga proyekto at pagkatapos mai focus ang kokonti na mga resources o tinatawag na pondo at ng sa ganun ay mas malaki ang kanyang magiging impact,” said Mr. Danilo A. Tumamao, Provincial Agriculturist of Isabela.


The NCI projects attracted huge investments from the private sector like hydro – power with a capacity to produce 100 MW amounting to Php12.9 Billion and post-harvest facilities amounting to Php2.25 Billion from the Aboitiz Group, implementation of East Asia Climate Change Project amounting to Php473.0 Million, also a grant from the KOICA, and implementation of the Dibuluan River Irrigation Project and Dabubu River Irrigation project amounting to Php305Million and Php438Million, respectively.

A total of Php405,348,258.08 million worth of projects or equivalent are already implemented in the different municipalities covered under convergence areas.

Rice Cluster

The main goal is to expand the rice production area thru construction of irrigations systems in support to the rice sufficiency plan with a total service area of 41,700 hectares. The covered municipalities include Tumauini, Benito Soliven, San Mariano, Cauayan City, Gamu, Naguillian, Ilagan City, Angadanan, Jones, San Agustin and Cabagan.

To date, activities and projects accomplished under rice cluster includes provision of crop insurance, zinc sulfate, seeds for wet and dry season, Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials and construction of irrigation projects.

The Dabubu-Dibuluan River Irrigation Project

San Agustin is situated at the southernmost part of Isabela. It is composed of 23 barangays and belong to the fourth (4th ) class municipality.

Farming is the main source of livelihood of the people in the area. San Agustin has a total of 1,554.870 hectares (ha) of rice with 1,743 farmers; 3,575.42 ha devoted to corn production with 2,466 farmers and 25,399.13 ha devoted for high value crops with 3,346 farmers.

Like many rice-growing areas in the Philippines, San Agustin depend mainly on rains for irrigation, thus, cropping is only once a year. Because of this, the rice areas are not fully maximized affecting the earning capacity of the people and food security in the area.

In a bid to spur the development of agriculture in the area, the Department of Agriculture- RFO 02 and the National Irrigation Administration Region 2 started the construction of Dabubu River Irrigation Project (DARIP) and Dibuluan River Irrigation Project (DIRIP) in 2011 at Barangays Dabubu and Dibuluan, San Agustin to address the need for irrigation of the farmers.


Engineer Wilbert Lopez Galamay, NIA Project Engineer, stressed that the DA-NIA R2 has enrolled irrigation projects in the Regional Cluster Initiatives (RCI) such as Dabubu River Irrigation Project (DARIP) and Dibuluan River Irrigation Project (DIRIP) in San Agustin, Isabela and the Dinapigue Small Scale Irrigation Project (SSIP) which is located in Dinapigue, Isabela. He said that the construction of the three (3) irrigation projects are on-going.

He also mentioned that the other two line projects enrolled are the Ilaguen Multi-Purpose Project and Tumauini River Irrigation projects found in San Mariano and Tumauini, Isabela, respectively. Galamay mentioned that the Feasibility Studies (FS) and Detailed Engineering of both irrigation projects are on-going. The estimated additional service areas to be irrigated from the two SSIPs shall be 38,000 hectares for Ilaguen and 7,000 ha new programme areas for Tumauini.

As of March 31, 2016, the DARIP Diversion Works is already completed while the DIRIP is 40% completed.

Meanwhile, Engineer Armand Ordinario of NIA field office based in San Antonio, San Agustin, Isabela said that the DARIP is in support to the Rice-Self Sufficiency Roadmap Program of DA and NIA aimed to cater substantial and timely water supply for irrigation to its beneficiaries.

Ordinario stressed that additional 1,500 hectares of agricultural land will be irrigated from the project. The irrigation water shall enormously spring up along ten (10) barangays within the municipality of San Agustin specifically Dububu River namely Dabubu Grande, Dabubu Paqueno, Virgoneza, Rang-ay, Quimalabasa Norte, Sto. Nino, Mapalad, Salay and San Antonio.

He also said that the Irrigation water will be diverted thru the constructed dam across Dabubu river and that the irrigation water from the Diversion Dam and Intake will be conveyed to the service area via trapezoidal earth channel which will skirt on hillside and cut contours. He further explained that appropriate structures will be provided on depressions, rivers, creeks, waterways and roads to efficiently convey water.

The project has total project cost of PHp305.0M which include the diversion works (completed), canal networks, road network, terminal, drainage and project facilities and watershed protection benefitting more than 1,000 farmers.

He explained that project completion (December 2015) was delayed mainly with the adverse effect of rains and recurrence of typhoons along the construction site as recorded in situ weather conditions as well as the earlier Right of Way (ROW) problems which were just lately settled with appropriate remedial measures. Hence, the CY 2015 implementation shall be completed by June 30, 2016 as per the latest pre-submitted catch-up.

Testimonies of Recipients

Mr. Juanito Tamundong, rice farmer of Dabubu revealed that before the DARIP was constructed, his harvest in his 1-ha rice land was only 30 cavans (unmilled rice). With DARIP, Tamundong is now harvesting 80-90 cavans per hectare.

Mr. Carlos Pascua also a rice farmer expressed his gratitude for the establishment of irrigation project in their municipality. He said that because of the project, his yield will not only increase, but also can now plant rice twice a year because of the availability of irrigation water.

To further increase their yield, Tamundong requested the DA-RFO 02-NIA to conduct rice production trainings in the locality and assist them in organizing them into an association.

Mr. Jaime Respicio, farmer of San Agustin, Isabela stressed that he has more than 11 ha of land, but he only tilled less than a hectare due to unavailability of irrigation water.

“Kapag matapos ang project na ito, siguro magkakaroon na rin kami ng mas magandang kabuhayan kasi karamihan sa amin ay rainfed ang aming sinasaka, kapag magclik ang proyektong ito, sigurado ko na gaganda ang kabuhayan ng maraming tao dito sa amin”, Respicio added.

Meanwhile, San Agustin is also the top producer of Murrah Buffaloes in the entire country. This is the reason why every September 27, a day before their foundation day or town fiesta, they hold the Nuang Festival, (nuang is Ilocano for buffalo), to celebrate this feat.

Coffee Cluster

Coffee was chosen as one of the commodities under RCI because of its economic value.

It aims to support the development of coffee industry in five (5) municipalities of Isabela namely Angadanan, Echague, Angadanan, San Guillermi, at San Mariano with a target area of 700 hectares (ha).

Likewise it aims to contribute a total of 1,050 MT of green bean to the 23,222MT national demand gap for coffee.

To date, activities or projects accomplished under the coffee cluster includes the provision of coffee planting materials, plastic drums, technical assistance and information, education and communication (IEC) materials

There are four varieties of coffee which are suited in Cagayan Valley’s climatic condition. These are Arabica or Kapeng Tagalog, Liberica or Kapeng Barako, Robusta and Excelsa.

In 2010, Cagayan Valley Region produces a total of 1,040.00 metric tons (MT) of coffee. With the aim to increase the coffee production in Cagayan Valley, the DA in coordination with DENR under the National Greening Program (NGP) in collaboration with the NCI has targeted beneficiaries for the provision of coffee seedlings, farm equipment, technical assistance and other support services. These convergence projects has also expanded to Quirino Province where they adopted coffee as their flagship commodity under the Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP).

Nueva Vizcaya remained to be the top coffee producer with an average production of 907.25 MT, followed by Quirino with 51.55 MT. The third one is Cagayan with 51.45 MT and the lowest producing province is Isabela with only 30.16 MT.

With the aim to increase coffee production in Cagayan Valley, the DA-RFO02 thru its High Value Crops Development Program in collaboration with National Convergence Initiatives has targeted beneficiaries for the provision of coffee seedling, farm equipment, technical assistance and other support services.

For the Coffee Cluster, it aims to support the development of the coffee industry in five municipalities of Isabela namely: Angadanan, Cordon, Echague, San Guillermo and San Mariano with a target area of 700 hectares. Likewise, it aims to contribute a total of 1,050 MT of green bean to the 23,222 MT national demand gap for coffee.

To date, activities/ projects accomplished under coffee cluster includes provision of coffee planting materials, plastic drums, technical assistance and Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials

Mr. Loreto Esperanzate, Coffee Farmer of Cordon, Isabela said that in 2011, he was a recipient of 200 pieces of coffee seedlings, 1 head carabao, 55 plastic drums, 2 sprayer and 1 plow from PLGU Isabela.

Mr. Marcelo Valdez of Angadanan, Isabela is also a recipient of coffee seedlings. Valdez expressed his gratitude to the DA-RFO 02 because of the technical assistance extended to them like trainings on coffee production.

Recently as per validation conducted by the NCI and RCI team in March 2016, Mr. Valdez also requested the DA to give them also trainings specifically on coffee postharvest aspect, assistance in marketing their coffee beans and in organizing coffee growers association.

To date, the Provincial Local Government Unit of Quirino had distributed a total of 521,500 coffee seedlings to the municipalities of Cabarroguis – 308,100 pieces and Aglipay – 213,400 pieces. While Nestle Philippines was able to distribute a total of 965,000 pieces of coffee seedlings to the municipalities of Maddela, Aglipay, Diffun, Saguday and Quirino State University (QSU). Breakdown were as follows: Maddela – 377,874; Aglipay – 221,563; Diffun- 350,563; Saguday-10,000 and QSU – 5,000)

Sugarcane Cluster

Under the Sugarcane Cluster, the main objective is to support the implementation of Biofuels Act and Renewable Energy Act particularly in 11,000 hectares of the municipalities of San Mariano, Benito Soliven, Naguillian, Ilagan City, Gammu and Cauayan City.

Hon. Dean Anthony G. Domalanta, Municipal Mayor of San Mariano said the Bioethanol from sugarcane established in San Mariano, Isabela is the biggest plantation in Asia. The ethanol started its construction in 2011.

Ms. Merlinda Cureg, Municipal Agriculturist of San Mariano, Isabela stressed that because of the establishment of Ecofuel Land Development Incorporated, farmers in the area were benefitted.

Mr. Norberto Rosales, Sugarcane farmer of San Mariano Isabela said that since the establishment of Ecofuel, he tried to plant other commodity like sugarcane because his yield from corn is very minimal. Luckily his yield from sugarcane is good, thus, his income increase which pave for the payment of school fees of his grandchildren.

The main purpose of convergence is not about the agencies but the combine strength of an entire region rising as one to eradicate poverty and foster sustainable rural development. Indeed, convergence works!