In preparation for the onslaught of the El Niño phenomenon, the Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM) of the Department of Agriculture (DA) has conducted island-wide consultation and planning workshops with Small-Scale Irrigation Associations (SWISAs).

The workshops were held to identify possible and alternative measures to mitigate the impact of drought, to determine the capability needs of the SWISAs and to find ways on how the members can participate in the project implementation.

Resource persons from the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) provided the SWISA participants with monthly and provincial drought outlook for them to identify the likely scenarios in their respective areas.

It is estimated that 60 provinces in the country have been affected by drought and dry spell, according to PAGASA. Because of the El Niño phenomenon, the weather bureau projects that rainfall will be below normal and the prolonged dry season may last until next year.

DA Undersecretary Emerson Palad said that involving SWISAs is vital to prepare the agriculture sector for the adverse impacts of El Niño.

“Irrigation is a key element to agricultural productivity. We need then to promptly identify measures on how we adapt our irrigation systems to the challenges of El Niño such that we could sustain our productivity,” Palad said.

BSWM Executive Director Silvino Q. Tejada announced that P10 billion will be allotted to the bureau for small-scale irrigation projects to be implemented from the last quarter of 2015 to 2016.

“With this [funding], we can now further improve our agricultural irrigation systems, enabling us to produce commodities competitive with products in the international market,” Tejada said.

The series of consultations were held in Pampanga for the Luzon cluster, Iloilo City for the Visayas cluster, and Cagayan de Oro for the Mindanao Cluster.

With a total membership of 1,488 associations and 70,000 individuals nationwide, a national convention of SWISA members will be held in Davao City this October to further discuss concerns they face as small irrigation groups.(Loraine Cecillo, DA-BSWM)