General Admission

Modernize agriculture, mechanize it even

By Al S. Mendoza

THE water crisis has not only hit Metro Manila but practically the entire agricultural sector.

Look at our rice fields and vegetable plantations.

Many of them, if not the vast majority of them, have practically dried up due mainly to the absence of rains the past three months or so.

From wet to dry, from moist to parched.

That’s what has become of our farmlands almost nationwide from January to March.

Worse, the El Nino phenomenon is here, prompting Agriculture Secretary Manny Pinol to sound the alarm.

“Water supply for agriculture in the Philippines has been declining because of several major reasons,” Pinol said.  “One of them is El Nino, which now hits the country every two years.”

He has one formula for the problem: Dredge major river systems.

“The reason for that is to increase the water holding capacity and prevent flooding during the rainy season,” Pinol said.

It makes sense.

Rivers are usually the sorry receptacles of garbage and other man-made wastes.

As a gory result, rivers slowly but surely become shallow, triggering instant swelling of rivers during a downpour.

A river’s capacity to absorb, hold, rainwater is critically diminished because its shallowness quickly hastens overflowing resulting in flash floods—at times deadly.

But for dredging rivers to begin immediately, and eventually prospering with a sustained effort to keep it going, the government must allocate more budget for agricultural technology.

“Towards this end,” said Pinol, “more funding and implementation of irrigation systems must also be adopted soonest to avoid a major water crisis in the next few years.”

Bull’s-eye, Mr. Secretary.

Irrigation has been a persistent irritant for farmers as inconsistent irrigation mechanisms have been the bane of farmers since time immemorial.

Pinol does not only want irrigation to be operational full blast but also intends to modernize it, mechanize it even.

Said Pinol: “Reliance on traditional irrigation systems instead of embracing modern technology has impeded growth of our agricultural concerns.”

Sadly, while Pinol has been batting fiercely for agricultural modernization, his budget was somewhat slashed this year, hurting, dislocating, his technology-inspired platform.
But then, if I know Pinol, he would, could, navigate his priorities out of harm’s way—easily at that.
He will never sulk. 
He will never play the blame game.
He will never surrender.
I’ve known him all these years as a fighter, a braveheart even.
Doom’s day scenarios have put agriculture in jeopardy due mainly to the lack of water.
Don’t tell that to Pinol.

One equipped with a street-wise demeanor, Pinol thrives on crisis. 
To him, every challenge is an opportunity to excel, to succeed. 
He’s just starting to warm up. 
Soon, it’s going to be show time.
The last laugh is the sweetest.  Always.

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