Rice Terraces rising in North CotabatoBy Edwin Fernandez
COTABATO CITY, Philippines — The Department of Agriculture is overseeing the construction of rice terraces on a mountainside in North Cotabato which agriculture and local government officials hope will not only boost food production but also attract tourists to the region.
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala over the weekend visited the farming village of Datu Ladayon in the municipality of Arakan, North Cotabato, to inspect the rock walls being put up by agricultural workers.
Alcala could not hide his amazement at the bright prospects for the farming community and told local officials and farmers that he would “personally bring this to the attention of President Aquino.”
“Datu Ladayon has the perfect ingredients to become the newest tourist destination as rice terraces will soon rise here when the rock walls are completed,” Alcala said. “It will be the region’s first rice terraces.”
Alcala was also amazed at how farmers worked together in putting up rock walls on the mountainside, which would not need the construction of irrigation canals because of the abundance of water from a number of waterfalls in the area.
Alcala said aside from becoming a tourist destination, the village would be a model community development project in the management of natural resources.
Arakan Mayor Rene Rubino said the rock walls were being constructed near the 100-meter-high Matigol Falls in Sitio (sub village) Inamong.
Arakan is home to caves, waterfalls, cold and hot springs and the 500-hectare Forest Wild Life Park in Barangay (village) Salasang, which is home to centuries old trees and wildlife such as the Philippine eagle.
North Cotabato is home to the Asia’s longest zipline in Makilala town, and the Asik-Asik falls that look like a curtain of water cascading down the side of a mountain in Alamada town.
Amalia Jayag-Datukan, regional director of the agriculture department, said the rock-wall-making was a flagship project of department, and to ensure the success of the construction of the rice terraces, Alcala has assigned Assistant Secretary Dante de Lima to see to their completion.
Last week, a team of agriculture extension workers from Quezon province came to teach two batches of agricultural extension workers in Arakan how to build the rock walls.
Alcala urged the extension workers and agriculture officials to transfer the technical know-how of rock wall-making to other farmers so that “together you will make history.”
Rubino vowed to provide all the necessary support, both logistical and manpower, to ensure the success of the project.
Central Mindanao is composed of the provinces of North and South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Saranggani and the cities of Cotabato, Kidapawan, Koronadal, Tacurong and General Santos City.