ARMM seeks to address drop in rice production due to armed conflict
SULTAN MASTURA, Maguindanao—The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) government said it was continuing to search for new methods to boost agricultural productivity which was affected by the constant cycle of violence affecting its areas, the latest of which were the incidents in Mamasapano and Pagalungan, both in Maguindanao.
Kadiguia Abdullah, information officer of the ARMM’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, said for example, the region lost nearly 10,000 metric tons in rice production between 2011 and 2012 because of displacements of farmers due to violence.
She said in 2011, the region’s rice production from its total irrigated area of 21,031 hectares was 80,128 metric tons. It dropped to 71,084 metric tons in 2012.
Abdullah said new farming technologies transferred through collaboration with farmers might have been instrumental in 2013, when the regional rice production went up to 73,398 metric tons.
ARMM Secretary Makmod Mending Jr. said the regional government had been “pushing for the adoption of new technologies for increased productivity and income.”
This include the distribution—in partnership with the Philippine Rice Information System (Prism)—of Palm tablet units with printers to local farmers and farm technologists to effectively monitor farms and determine what kind of technological inputs to apply and when they are appropriately needed.
All useful data for modern farming guides are stored in the applications of the distributed tablets, along with the usual programs installed, Mending said.
There was also the “more frequent collaboration of farmers and agriculture students,” which was said to open the gate to a two-way learning process: The knowledge of actual farming from the farmers, and the transfer of modern technology learned by the students in theory.
ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman said other efforts include support projects such as roads and reaching out to the younger generation to encourage them to turn to agriculture by offering them relevant scholarship programs, and by supporting the peace process to win them back to the communities.
The reality, Hataman said, was that rice production in the region could sharply drop in the next 10 years if migration, principally due to armed conflict, was not addressed.
In a life expectancy of 60 years old, Hataman said the region’s average age of farmers at 52 years old posed an alarming situation that in the next eight to 10 years, there could no longer be as much food served on the table.
Hataman said many of ARMM’s rice-producing communities were adversely affected by armed conflicts and thousands of families have been dislocated, causing massive migration especially among young individuals.
“The situation is such that the farming generation is curtailed by the trend of younger people seeking employment opportunities elsewhere for survival, making farmers the ‘vanishing species’ of sort in their communities,” Mending agreed.
Mending said it was also not far-fetched that many of the farmers’ family members have turned to rebellion, especially if they had fallen victims to war atrocities.
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