Coconut, rice farmers worst hit by Yolanda

MANILA, Philippines – Filipino coconut and rice farmers suffered the biggest blow when Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) hit Visayas two months ago.

According to a January 7 report by the Department of Agriculture (DA), coconut and rice were the crops most damaged by the super typhoon.

Coconuts topped the list with P17.9 billion worth of crops lost. Rice came in second with P3.2 billion in production loss. (READ: Coconut farmers face ruin after Haiyan)

Other damaged crops include corn, banana, cassava, vegetables and mango.

In the report, the department lists the steps it has taken to help affected farmers get their livelihood back. Two initiatives are being pursued specifically for coconut and rice farmers.

DA Undersecretary Dante Delima, in charge of post-Yolanda agriculture rehabilitation, told media, "We are now moving from rehabilitation to instituting strategic and long-term rehabilitation measures."

Watch coconut farmer Gilbert Negad from talk about the pests that hound coconut farms after being hit by super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) below.

Planting better

To aid coconut farmers, the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) is implementing a cash-for-work program for farmers of damaged coconut plantations. They can help out in clearing operations and the lumber gathered will be used to rebuild houses.

Chainsaws and farm tools have been delivered to these plantations for clearing and land preparation. 

For the next planting season, the PCA is promoting the use of coconut varieties, which can bear fruit faster so that farmers can get back to their livelihood sooner.

Synthetic and aromatic coconut varieties being promoted by the PCA can bear fruit within 3 to 4 years compared to other varieties that take 7 to 8 years.

Developed by PCA scientists, the synthetic variety is also high-yielding, producing larger nuts.

The PCA also plans to implement typhoon-resistant planting methods that will help coconut trees survive future storms.

Household seed banks

The DA is working with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to help rice farmers get back on their feet, said Delima.

Together, they have provided 40% of rice seeds required for replanting in devastated farmlands. 

The FAO sourced seeds from private seed companies based in the Philippines. The DA contributed seeds from community seed banks in regions unaffected by the typhoon.

The establishment of household seed banks was recommended by the FAO as a measure to help families prepare for future storms. These seed banks can support the community seed banks already put up by government.

The FAO is also looking to provide assistance for the rehabilitation of irrigation systems essential to cultivating rice. The agency will also support the production of white corn as an alternative staple. 

They aim to produce 100,000 metric tons of white corn by the start of the harvest season in September, Delima told reporters.

As of January 7, the latest DA tally pegs Yolanda damage to agriculture at P31.13 billion. The department says it needs P9.17 billion to rehabilitate the agriculture and fisheries sector in affected regions. – Rappler.com