July 26, 2021
A revenue sharing scheme will be implemented in a flourishing watershed and agro-forestry management in Cordillera which will ensure water replenishment for the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project that will irrigate more than 8,000 hectares of farmland.
As part of a long term sustainability plan, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will ensure compensation of Indigenous People (IP) who now maintain the forests of Chico River Basin.
“The revenue will make sure a PO (people’s organization) member gets his share from whatever activity he contributes such as growing seedlings. The government also wants to earn from its management of the natural resource,” said according to Marilyn Malecdan, regional project coordinator of the Chico River project.
The Cordillera provinces—Mt. Province, Kalinga, Apayao, Ifugao— will host the Chico River Pump Irrigation project touted to be flagship project of the government. If not for the Covid 19 pandemic, it was originally planned to be completed by end of 2021 or early 2022.
It is estimated to irrigate 7,530 hectares of farm in Tuao and Piat, Cagayan and 1,170 ha in Pinukpuk, Kalinga. To be benefitted are an estimated 4,350 families.
The watershed management project of DENR includes a 5,056-hectare revenue-earning agro-forestry sites (grown with fruit-bearing trees, vegetables).
It was approved in 2012 and was originally conceived to preserve and conserve the Upper Chico River Basin that straddles through Mt. Province, Kalinga, Apayao, and Ifugao provinces.
The project, under the Integrated Resources Environmental Management Program (INREMP), is in its final year of completion.
Therefore a sustainability plan with a revenue-sharing scheme is now being mapped.
“Chico River Basin has vast potentials for development. It has potential for electric power, irrigation, domestic purposes, and recreation. The river harnesses the major irrigation systems to water its vast rice lands. As a result, Kalinga has been promoted as a rice granary of the region,” said Engr. Ralph C. Pablo, INREMP-CAR (Cordillera Administrative Region) project director.
While environmental protection is the primary aim, INREMP has successfully generated livelihood for the upland residents.
Through collaboration with other agencies like the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Department of Agriculture (DA), the PO partners are able to process and market their coffee. The DENR project provided them with coffee dehullers, roasters, grinders, and other packaging tools.
The people also now produce muscovado sugar, wine from various fruits such as Bignay, and of course rice and corn. Provision of rice mills, hand tractors, and multi-purpose pavement for drying products made the lives of farmers in far flung communities of the Cordillera easier.
“Our rural infrastructure projects have greatly helped them in transporting their products. With our project we’re able to help people in the farflung areas that used to be inaccessible (due to mountain barriers),” she said.
INREMP’s rural infrastructure support, in partnership also with Department of Agriculture, includes rehabilitated access roads of 42.32 kilometers and a foot trail of 10,000 meters.
The infrastructure support helped the natives of Cordillera to cut on hauling costs and increase productivity of the lands. Also, women were freed from the burden of fetching water from far communal water sources.
INREMP has so far established 3,701 hectares of reforestation area (deforested but replanted) and 5,056 hectares of agroforestry (vegetable and fruit crops with dipterocarp trees planted).
Tree species planted include narra, Benguet pine, and dipterocarp trees (broad-leafed, lowland tropical trees) such as white lauan.
It has also established a total of 6,533 hectares of assisted natural regeneration area — naturally-growing young trees (regenerants) that are cleaned and trimmed. The areas are supported to grow trees with ring weeding, thinning to avoid crowding, fertilizer application, and planting of open spaces.
A separate 955 hectares of commercial tree plantation (CTP) have been grown by the IPs using fast-growing tree species such as Benguet pine, Gmelina and Mahogany (harvestable from eight to 20 years).
An area called conservation farming — where contouring and other agro-forestry techniques are used to eliminate soil erosion in sloping areas – now total to 690 hectares.
With the CTP, the IPs are able to generate construction materials for their own needs such as for housing and do not have to illegally cut trees.
“Mt. Province has become the home to high value crops yielding legumes/beans, carrots, root crops and other cash crops. White water rafting along the Chico River is another potential attracting local as well as foreign tourists. There are still untapped prospects that include gold, sulfur, copper, gypsum, clay and gravel and other quarry resources,” said Pablo.
INREMP is co-financed by the Asian Development Bank. ADB has allocated a restructured loan amount of $57 million for INREMP. INREMP is receiving a grant of $2.5 million from the Global Environment Facility. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)