Maguindanao declares state of calamity as farms lose P150M, face starvation
COTABATO CITY – The Maguindanao provincial board declared on Monday a state of calamity in the entire province as the destruction due to the dry spell reached its peak.
Gov. Esmael Toto Mangudadatu said the provincial council approved his recommendation after 30 towns reported heavy losses due to drought.
Maguindanao was one of the provinces in Mindanao identified by the state weather bureau to experience extreme heat as a result of the El Niño phenomenon.
Initial report from the provincial agriculture office said more than P150 million worth of corn, palay and other high value crops have been damaged since early January, affecting more than 10,000 farmers in Maguindanao’s 36 municipalities.
Mangudadatu told reporters that he received reports that some indigenous peoples in South Upi, Maguindanao belonging to the Teduray tribe have resorted to eating “kayos,” (wild yam) as other root crops have become unavailable.
Kayos is a poisonous root crop if not properly cleansed before cooking. It contains a toxic substance that can kill anyone eating it.
“I have sent a team to extend food assistance to our indigenous people in South Upi,” he said.
Adding woes to farmers were the rodent attacks on ready-to-harvest crops, Mangudadatu said.
The town of Datu Abdullah Sangki suffered the most from rat attacks, which have destroyed more than 800 hectares of corn and rice fields.
Mangudadatu said the amount of damage could go higher upon the receipt of reports from all municipal agriculture officials.
As mitigating measures, Mangudadatu said the provincial government would use its calamity fund to help farmers recover at least half of the farm inputs.
Maria Luz, a 52-year-old farmer in the upland village of Kuya, South Upi, Maguindanao, told reporters that rain-dependent corn and palay crops have been sagging due to extreme heat.
“Most crops are beyond recovery. We have nothing to turn to but look for wild crops just to survive,” Maria Luz said, adding her village would starve if government could not ease the current situation.
“When our farmers resort to eating wild yam, it shows that no other food is available to them,” Mangudadatu said.
In South Upi, an upland town west of Maguindanao, the heat and the absence of rain have damaged corn, the major agricultural produce of the area.
In the lowlands of Maguindanao, freshwater fisherfolk have been without catch as water tributaries and rivers have dried up.
North Cotabato last week declared a state of calamity after drought and rat attacks either destroyed or damaged P240 million worth of crops. SFM
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