Small dams help rice farms survive drought
BALUNGAO, PANGASINAN — No irrigation system feeds water to rice farms in this eastern Pangasinan town, but farmers have survived this year’s drought because of water impounding dams.
Nine small water impounding projects (SWIPs), which can irrigate 500 hectares of rice fields in nine villages, have saved the day for rice farmers who are struggling to overcome the impact of imported rice due to the rice tariffication law (Republic Act No. 11203), said Mayor Philipp Peralta.
The law liberalizes rice importation but importers now pay high tariffs.
A 10th SWIP, spanning 3 ha with a depth of 9 meters, was recently completed to serve 100 ha of farmlands in Barangay Pugaro here.
The SWIPs, which collect runoff rainwater and river and spring water, enable farmers to pursue second cropping, Peralta said. But the impounding dams irrigate only a quarter of the town’s 4,229 ha of farmlands, he said.
Three SWIPs serve Barangay Esmeralda while Barangay Angayan Sur, San Aurelio 2nd, Mabini, San Andres, Kita-Kita and Pugaro have their respective impounding dams.
Balungao has put up 100-square-meter water reservoirs in villages which have no SWIPs. Farmers use these reservoirs to culture tilapia.
A SWIP can accommodate tilapia cages but Balungao intends to develop the dams as tourism destinations, where water skiing and banana boat rides can be offered, Peralta said.
The SWIP in Pugaro is near the Balungao hot springs, a popular tourist haunt. “We will establish a sunflower farm that will serve as a view for those who will use the ziplines offered at the hot spring area,” Peralta said.
Balungao has also introduced coffee and cacao plantations near SWIPs. “Perhaps the coffee plantations would attract civet cats and we could produce civet coffee,” Peralta said. —YOLANDA SOTELO
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