Dry spell ravages Maguindanao farms
COTABATO CITY—As farms and rivers started to dry up in Maguindanao due to the prolonged dry spell, upland folk in the province have begun foraging for food, even resorting to eating a poisonous root crop if only to survive.
Gov. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu said he received reports that some members of the indigenous Teduray tribe in South Upi town had resorted to eating “kayos” (wild yam) due to the scarcity of food. While kayos contains toxic substances that can be fatal to anyone eating it, this type of root crop can be consumed provided it is properly cleaned and cooked.
“When our farmers resort to eating wild yam, it shows that no other food is available for them,” Mangudadatu said.
On Monday, the Maguindanao provincial board placed the province under a state of calamity as the destruction wrought by the dry spell on the province’s agriculture breached P150 million.
Mangudadatu said the board approved his recommendation to declare the province under a state of calamity after 30 towns reported heavy losses from the drought.
Maguindanao was among the provinces in Mindanao identified by the state weather bureau, Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa), that would experience extreme heat as a result of the El Niño phenomenon. El Niño is characterized by the unusual warming of surface ocean waters in the Pacific Ocean, causing drought and extreme weather patterns.
Initial reports from the provincial agriculture office showed that more than P150 million worth of corn, palay and other high-value crops had been damaged since January, affecting the livelihood of more than 10,000 farmers in Maguindanao’s 36 towns.
Mangudadatu said the provincial government sent a team to bring food to indigenous peoples groups in South Upi.
Adding to the farmers’ woes was the destruction wrought by rat attacks on ready-to-harvest crops.
The town of Datu Abdullah Sangki was hardest hit, as more than 800 hectares of corn and rice fields have been destroyed and rendered useless by rodents.
As a mitigating measure, Mangudadatu said, the provincial government will use its calamity fund to help farmers recover at least half of their expenses for farm inputs.
Maria Luz, a 52-year-old farmer in the upland village of Kuya in South Upi, said the village’s corn and palay crops, which are heavily dependent on rainwater, had been wilting due to extreme heat.
“Most crops are beyond recovery, we have nothing to turn to but look for wild crops just to survive,” she said
In the lowlands of Maguindanao, fishermen lamented their dwindling catch as water tributaries and rivers started to dry up.
Last week, the provincial board of North Cotabato placed the province under a state of calamity after crop losses due to drought and rat attacks reached P240 million.
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