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by Anna Delza S. Barimbao

Great ancient civilizations begin where people and communities gather together to draw the basic necessity of life --water.

Today, the concept of development has not changed as water is still the basic element for man to live and sustain life. If Nile River is for the Egyptian civilization, watershed areas is for Philippine rural development.

What is amazing with water resources is that it attracts development from ridge to rift which draws both local and international tourists. Such is the case of the watershed areas in Matutinao, Cebu, composed of the municipalities of Alegria, Dalaguete, Alcoy, Malabuyoc, and Badian as well as the watershed areas of Abatan in Bohol, which includes the municipalities of Cortes, Maribojoc, Antequerra, Balilihan and Catigbian.

 

In 2000-2002, Kawasan falls in Matutinao was awarded as the cleanest inland body of water-- making it one of the main tourist attractions in Cebu.

Kawasan Falls in Matutinao is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Cebu.

Central to the convergence strategy created by the National Convergence Initiative for Sustainable Rural Development (NCI-SRD), is the involvement of the different components at the regional, provincial and municipal levels in the development plan, namely, the policy and advocacy, capacity development, agribusiness, and knowledge management components.

Of these components, the agribusiness gives a measurable economic impact on the lives of farmers and fisherfolk living in the watershed areas.

Though the development plans are prepared in the respective municipalities, but the recent validation of the NCI-SRD had revealing impact on these projects in the lives of the locals.

Matutinao watershed

Development at the ridge is found in the municipality of Dalaguete which is recipient of the region's first modern Agri-pinoy Trading Center (APTC). Known as the vegetable basket in the region, its population depends largely on farming. The APTC envisions that investments, infrastructure and agri-enterprise will follow. The electronic price monitoring board aid farmers in the dynamics of prices at the retail markets in Cebu City, allowing farmers to have better bargaining power with traders.

Director Angel Enriquez of the DA-RFO 7 said that the establishment of the modern trading center is an infrastructure investment of the region that will accelerate growth in agri-based enterprises and will ultimately provide better income to farmers--a fact that is testified by farmers in Dalaguete.

According to Jose Legazpi, president of Dumalan Farmers' Association in Dalaguete, the P12.7M Agri-pinoy trading center launched in May 2015 by Secretary Proceso Alcala, greatly improved the production opportunities among farmers in Dalaguete. The farmers who are largely dependent on water now have benefited of an improved trading system. Upgrading the conventional practice which includes poorly packed vegetables resulting to bruises and wastes and poor road conditions, were now improved with the establishment of the pickup point in Mantalongon where vegetables are sorted and properly packed and transported to the APTC.

The P5M farm-to market road in Dalaguete which was funded by the DA in 2015 helped in the efficient delivery of products.

DAR-DENR projects in Matutinao

Matutinao supplies the domestic and agricultural waters in the watershed areas, however according to the vulnerability assessment of Matutinao in 2014 by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), around 3,000 hectares or 65.12 percent of the area have high landslide vulnerability.

In fact typhoons 'Queenie and Yolanda' have triggered heavy floods from the mountain areas in Dalaguete, Badian and Alegria in 2014, causing casualties among residents in the low lying areas. It was also estimated that flood prone areas cover 5.98 hectares in areas towards the outlet of the watershed. The findings pushed both the DENR7 and the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR7) to implement a flood control project for the conservation of both soil and water.

It is for this that government agencies create projects for water and soil conservation. Hermonilla Echavez, 41 years old , President of the Valencia Farmers' Association, said that four upland barangays were contoured in the municipality of Alegria. The contour project did not only address the environment issues it likewise provided additional income to them as they plant fruit trees, vegetables and forage for animal feeds. Contouring reduces soil erosion by 50 percent and it helped the farmers earn a living as they are hired in the establishment of contours at P12 per linear meter.

Completing the ridge development in Alegria, is the old age technology of contour farming under the Department of Agrarian Reform- Region 7 (DAR 7) in barangays Lepanto, Compostela, Guadalupe, Valencia and Montpeller. According to Liza Toroy, Municipal Agrarian Reform Officer of Alegria, there are about 500 farmer beneficiaries of the contour farming project.

Ridge projects creating positive effects at the reef

The beauty of convergence is that ridge projects have positive effect on the fisherfolk at the reef. The establishment of check dams or structures that prevent soil erosion has helped the fisherfolk in the coastal areas in their problem on siltation. These check dams are strategically placed in vulnerable flood-prone areas identified by DENR.

According to Juan Medel, president of Lepantohanong Hukbong sa Kalamboan, silt destroyed corals reducing fishcatch in the seas of Alegria. Based on independent studies, silt affects aquatic life by reducing rate of egg survival and invertebrate type of fishes.

Human beings can never survive without water , that brings the need to converge government reources in order to effect a truly sustainable rural development.