COTABATO CITY—Bangsamoro Government’s Director for Agriculture Services Engr. Ismail Guiamel shared in an interview that ‘palay’ or rice production and supply of food commodities across the Bangsamoro region remained constant in spite of the crisis brought about by the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
“Pagdating sa impact ng Covid-19, Alhamdulillah at naging tuloy-tuloy ‘yung pagbibigay natin ng serbisyo sa rehiyon. We were still able to maintain food supply in BARMM,” Guiamel said.
Accordingly, factors that contributed to last year’s rice productivity were boosted by the harmonized interventions of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Agrarian Reform (MAFAR) to farmers and various cooperatives in the region.
These interventions include the provision of farming technical inputs, support to farmers in terms of access to market, and distribution of farm machinery, seedlings, infra-support, and equipment.
He also cited the report of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA-BARMM), highlighting the increase of palay production in BARMM, as it reached 15.61 percent or 196,987 metric tons (MT) in the first quarter (Q1) of 2020 [from 170,387.50 MT in Q1 2019].
Considering natural disasters such as floods, typhoons, and the unprecedented emergence of the pandemic during the first few months of 2020, Guiamel considered this milestone as ‘seldom’. He also acknowledged the healthy synergy between the ministry and palay growers in the region.
MAFAR, under the leadership of minister Dr. Mohammad Yacob, started to harmonize its database, through ‘georeferencing and geo-tagging’, to properly allocate projects based on geographical conditions and characteristics of the areas, whether elevated or in lowland location.
“We have plenty of high-value crops in BARMM—palay in Maguindanao, corn in Lanao del Sur, while our island provinces have cassava, seaweeds production, and fishing activities,” Guiamel noted, adding that putting the right context of intervention into their right locations is vital in the farming system.
Bringing MAFAR services closer to the community
The ministry also intensified its service inputs, partnership with agri-fishery cooperatives, and involvement with the grassroots level through “Ramdam ng tao” or people-centric programs as directed by BARMM Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim.
Ebrahim earlier said the government will continue to bring people closer to the Bangsamoro community in response to the call for moral governance.
“We go down to the remote areas not only to talk to people, but also provide inputs, community extension services, and training to really monitor the situation of our farmers and fisherfolks,” Guiamel said.
“Iyong mga farmers natin, nakikita nila through the use of technology iyong ating farming areas. This is very effective right now, dahil mismong mga farmers ang nagsasabi na ito iyong tama dahil walang overlapping ang areas, at nakakaya natin e-maximize ang budget natin,” Guiamel added.
This year, the total budget appropriations approved for the ministry is whopping Php1.5 billion, which will be allocated for operations, commodities, and requirements of productions, among others.
Flagship programs of the ministry
Sustainable programs for the agri-fishery sector were introduced by the ministry for productivity and income-generating activities. These include the following:
• Basic Integration of Harmonized Intervention (BInHI), which provides assistance to farmers who were formerly combatants by introducing them sustainable vegetable farming inputs. Farmers were given quality seeds, fertilizers, tools, and equipment, including training and access to markets.
• (LUPA) or Land distribution and development for the Upliftment of Poor ARBs and (ISDA) or Integrated and Sustainable Development for Aquaculture/Capture.
• Food Security and Nutrition Roadmap—a 10-year strategic plan, aiming to provide quality services based on moral governance to achieve food security and nutrition towards sustainable development. It envisions a self-reliant, food secure, and resilient Bangsamoro.
• MAFARLENGKE (Local Exchange and Network of Goods in any Kind of Emergency) where goods and various agri-fishery products are showcased and sold at affordable prices.
Further, the ministry also looked at the context of halal quality goods, both in industry and production, considering the region’s predominantly Muslim population.
Guiamel also laid out factors that affected the services of the ministry over the past years.
Reasons were mostly attributed to the insufficiency of resources to provide for the BARMM’s population within and outside the territory; issues of conflict-affected areas; hiring of new staff and technological support amid the Transition period; the expectation of the farmers on budget proposals; and the effects of climate change in agri-fishery production.
“This year, our government is still on the institutionalization and capacity building. By 2025 onwards, we will delve into the increase of partnership and investment, including the sustainability, so we can increase more of our agricultural production,” Guiamel concluded. (Bangsamoro Information Office)