Friday, July 29, 2011

P20M, ready for DA’s Rainfed Program to Alleviate Food Production

The Department of Agriculture (DA) is releasing an initial P20 million in the third quarter for a national rainfed program aimed at raising food production in more than one million hectares of land tended by the country’s poorest farmers. 

DA has partnered with India-based International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) to carry out the Philippine Rainfed Agriculture Research and Development and Extension Program (PhiRARDEP).

DA will work on PhilRARDEP through its staff bureaus, Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), together with its Regional Field Units (RFU)- Regional Integrated Agricultural Research Centers (RIARCS), Agricultural Training Institute Regional Training Centers (ATI-RTC) as well as selected State Universities and Colleges (SUCs).

“(DA) Secretary (Proceso) Alcala will release P20 million this August for our rainfed program. We will be implementing programs that we have learned based on how the government of India put its money for what is important,” said ICRISAT Director General William D. Dar.

Coordinating agency for the PhiRARDEP will be BAR.  “PhiRARDEP’s components are rainfed farming innovation; community-based watershed management and soil conservation; policy formation; and capacity building. We will train technicians who will help marginal farmers in raising their income,” said BAR Director Nicomedes P. Eleazar.

While the Philippine government has in the past poured majority of its funding and policy support for irrigated agriculture, rainfed areas have been neglected despite its huge contribution to food production.

“Almost half of our food supply comes from rainfed areas. If it’s developed, maybe this can rise to 60 to 70 percent,” said ICRISAT Communications Director Rex Navarro.

The impact on farmers is also immense. “The Philippines is predominantly rainfed. An estimated 20 million Filipinos are in this area. Farmers only depend on rainfall for their water supply which is why their income is limited specially if they plant only rice. What we’ll do is introduce to them other (drought-resistant) commodities,” said Eleazar.

Farmers in rainfed areas may only plant rice once a year instead of twice due to their rain-dependence. Among alternative crops considered to be drought-resistant or those requiring much less water compared to rice are root crops such as sweet potato and cassava and legumes including peanut, pigeon pea, chickpea, and sweet sorghum.

Alcala has also supported the planting of adlai, a rice-like crop known to be a staple of some Filipino natives in Mindanao, and white corn.

The importance of a rainfed agriculture program is expected to intensify due to the manifestation of climate change which poses a threat of reduction of water supply for agriculture along with increasing temperature or hotter climate.

DA-BAR earlier funded the Community Based Watershed Management (CBWM), a rainwater harvesting technique, in four sites—Tarlac, Bulacan, Ilocos Sur, and Bohol.

According to a DA-BAR-ICRISAT report, Uplands represent about 74 percent of the country. Soil erosion is widespread in these areas with devastating impact on farm household. Poverty, poor infrastructure, lack of institutions and policies, unemployment, and poor health and sanitation are entrenched among these communities,

CBWM is a promising strategy to improve livelihood of upland farmers and abate ecological degradation. Pivotal to the success of CBWM is the participation of natives living in these areas and a program that satisfies their economic needs through relevant livelihood opportunities. These include rice farming, fishing, livestock raising and non-farm programs such as handicraft making.

CBWM taught farmers in these areas to conserve water through techniques like contour farming using hedgerows, trash line, and store lines which are systems of constructing plots that collect excess and store rainwater.

However, the major infrastructure program is the construction of weirs, concrete storage tank, small farm water reservoir, and spring development diversion dam.

Organic agriculture is also part of this program including composting, biogas technology, and liquid fertilizer production.

PhiRARDEP aims to replicate a watershed program of ICRISAT in the 464-hectare Adarsha Watershed, Kothapally in India which despite the abject absence of water or surface water sources like rivers has become a successful farming village.

Through a watershed approach that harnesses rainwater in check dams, sunken pits, and mini percolating tanks, farmers in Adarsha Watershed are able to plant many crops like corn, sorghum, and pigeon pea. As Adarsha's dams recharge the groundwater, their dams have become sources of water that have been able to irrigate 60 hectares as of 1998. Adarsha’s irrigated area even augmented to 160 hectares as of 2008.

Because of the success of Adarsha Watershed, the watershed approach's replication has been sanctioned by a national guideline of the Indian government. It has been multiplied in many Indian districts.

"Our compulsion here was for ICRISAT to come up with a good watershed model that approximates agricultural communities. So in this case even the lowest 500-hectare village can be a watershed," said Dar, a former Philippine DA secretary.

Watershed areas may also expand to 1,000 to 2,000 hectares.

"One of ICRISAT’s biggest contributions in watershed management is on India's national policy taking learning from Kothapally. The guidelines have changed as a result of ICRISAT's experience. They used to have just a few hectares. Now they have made it wider, so the impact is bigger. They also included vulnerable groups like women and children and livelihood programs. Before the original watershed program was just on soil conservation and moisture content," said Dr. Rosana P. Mula, CBWM resource person.

CBWM, implemented in the Philippines since 2005, also had a component for coconut-based processed food production including vinegar, nata de coco, and macaroons.

Source: BAR Director Nicomedes P. Eleazar

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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

DOST-12, Makilala LGU in waste management system

The Department of Science and Technology Region 12 (DOST-12) and the local government unit of Makilala in North Cotabato joined hands to solve the growing solid waste problem in said town.

A Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) titled “Technology Transfer on Organic Fertilizer Production Using the Bioreactor Technology” signed this June 21 by DOST-12 regional director Zenaida P. HR Laidan and Makilala Mayor Rudy A. Caoagdan formalized the alliance.

The partnership details a sound and solid waste management system that will permanently solve the mounting garbage problems of Makilala.

“We sought the help of DOST-12 after receiving a third and final warning from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to comply with RA 9003,” Caoagdan said.  RA 9003 is also known as the Eco-Solid Waste Management Act of 2000.

He revealed that the LGU was troubled with solid waste disposal despite intensive public awareness campaign on waste segregation at the household level since last year. 

The local government also opened a new dumpsite in Barangay Leboce to partially solve the community’s growing problem on waste disposal, but this did not fully address the concern.  

Caoagdan recognized the need for a more permanent solution to include reduction of residual wastes and providing employment opportunities to his constituents through the creation of alternative livelihood sources.  Through the technical assistance of DOST-12 and DOST’s Industrial Technology Development Institute (ITDI) for the design and construction of the bioreactor, the municipality looks forward to having a facility that will recycle the wastes generated by its residents into organic fertilizers.

DOST 12 assisted the LGU in the preparation of a project proposal that will help support the acquisition of a bioreactor for the recycling of biodegradables, which is estimated to be 65% of the total wastes generated by the municipality or approximately four tons daily.   

The bioreactor is the first of the series of technologies for the municipality in this joint initiative. Recycling of non-biodegradable wastes like plastics, glass and others using the ITDI-DOST technology has also been programmed by DOST-12 for Makilala. 

Last year, DOST-12 also conducted an awareness seminar among the town’s barangay officials regarding proper waste segregation and recycling to increase their knowledge in environmental management system.  

Source: DOST-12, Normina Pahm (S&T Media Service)
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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

DOST high impact technologies events via NSTW 2011

Themed “Nasa Siyensya ang Pag-asa”, the 2011 National Science and Technology Week (NSTW) celebrates Filipino genius and ingenuity in the field of S&T that raise the hope of the nation. The event, aptly titled ‘Expo Science 2011’, describes the latest breakthroughs from the Philippine science community to be showcased at the SMX Convention Center, Mall of Asia, Pasay City, 27-30 July 2011.

The event opens with President Benigno S. Aquino III who recently commended the Department of Science and Technology Secretary Mario G. Montejo for being a ‘bringer of good news’ in his administration.

The NSTW features S&T fairs and exhibits, and other events in different venues to give audiences updates on the goings-on within the local science community.  Among these include: Outstanding Young Scientist Summit (July 13, Manila Hotel), Annual Scientific Meeting (July 14-15, Manila Hotel), Science for Kids (July 18-22, DOST-NRCP Auditorium, Bicutan, Taguig City), STARBOOKS launch (July 19, SM Mall of Asia-Nido Fortified Science Discovery Center), Tagisang Robotics (July 28, SM Mall of Asia-Music Hall), S&T Summit and S&T Quiz Bee (July 29, SMX Convention Center), and In Touch With Excellence (July 29, Landbank Auditorium).

Highlighted in the science exposition are the Department’s High Impact Technologies and Services or HITS, the centerpiece exhibit. The latest technologies and services from the DOST system on display include the Mosquito Ovicidal-Larvicidal Trap, brown rice, baby foods, water filter, automatic weather stations, mass transit system, PC tablet, RxBox, PCOS machine, gantry crane, windmills, and initiatives on emerging fields of genomics, biotechnology, nanotechnology nuclear energy.

These technologies will alleviate the socio-economic conditions of Filipinos, provide long-term solutions, strengthen national competitiveness, and contribute to national development.

The NSTW will be participated in by government offices, the business sector, and the academic community, mostly with their respective exhibits. 

Organized by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), the Expo Science 2011 overall concept vividly pictures the mission and vision of the Department as it steers the country towards national development.

The NSTW 2011 is co-chaired by DOST Undersecretary Fortunato T. Dela Peña and Director Raymund E. Liboro of the DOST Science and Technology Information Institute.

Source: DOST, Aristotle P. Carandang (S&T Media Service)

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Monday, July 4, 2011

DOST chief statement: ICTO, under DOST in EO 47

DOST Secretary Mario G. Montejo

PRESIDENT AQUINO signed Executive Order No. 47 placing the Commission on Information and Communication Technology (CICT) and its attached agencies under the Department of Science and Technology. 
The decision affirms the President’s commitment to align the government’s ICT infrastructure,  program and plans with the strategy for inclusive economic growth and efficient governance  by integrating ICT policies, programs, and resources  with research and continuing innovation led by the DOST. 
Executive Order  47 will result in  a leaner, meaner and more proactive office that will ensure that our ICT industry will remain competitive in the global market, and Filipinos would experience the benefits of ICT through a more efficient and transparent e-government.
            Executive Order 47 signifies a shift to more strategic ICT policies and the immediate implementation of urgent steps needed in ICT development  by tapping into DOST’s direct links with the academe and industry. 
Under the DOST, the former CICT is renamed as the Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO). It will continue to put a high priority on e-Governance and the highflying business process outsourcing industry. 
The ICTO under DOST will accelerate the development of a connected government and integrate IT government systems under a unified platform.  Consolidating all government ICT programs will likewise put an end to inefficient ICT projects that are disjointed or duplication of each other.
 The ICTO under DOST will ensure the long-term sustainability of the IT-BPO sector.  The ICTO will concentrate on the areas of human resource development through education in order to produce globally competitive ICT manpower and promoting a climate conducive for further growth.
It will also streamline research and innovation in ICT to address issues such as cyber hacking, disaster risk management, and environment protection.
The DOST in consultation with the sectors concerned will prepare a rationalization plan  as contained in EO 47 and will submit this to the Office of the President within three (3) months.

Source & photo credit: DOST STII

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Friday, July 1, 2011

DOST to design and deploy water hyacinth harvester in July

According to Backpacking Philippines and Asia: “water hyacinths which is commonly and erroneously called water lily were originally from South America and introduced in many parts of the world.  Pasig River and Laguna de Bay are local examples of the mess caused by the aquatic plants in clogging waterways, choking oxygen from the water and breeding of mosquitoes.”
Scientists and engineers at the Department of Science and Technology are in a race to diffuse exploding tangles of water hyacinth clogging freshwater bodies in the country. 

“We are looking at the water hyacinth problem in two ways: how to remove it and how to use it,” DOST Secretary Mario G. Montejo said.

“We are validating the many potential uses of water hyacinth and see what are the most appropriate options at the municipal and industrial levels”, he added. “Do we use it for handicraft or as material for biogas or garments production?”

But DOST’s immediate mission order from Malacañang is to help de-clog major river systems like the Rio Grande de Mindanao, which swamped villages along its banks and portions of Cotabato City because of massive swarm of water hyacinth.

That means a far more efficient mechanical de-clogging system than backhoes sitting on barges. “We expect to test a DOST-developed water hyacinth harvester within July” possibly in the Manggahan section of the Pasig River or in Pampanga, DOST Assistant Secretary Robert O. Dizon said wistfully.

Such harvester will work similar to commercially available models used in other tropical countries in their battle against the aquatic menace. But the design will be adapted to local conditions and will be built using locally available components, he added.

“It will create another problem if the water hyacinth clumps taken out of the river are just left along the banks. The immediate option, we think, is to use it as landfill”, adds Executive Director Amelia P. Guevara of DOST’s Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development.

“Our objective should not be to totally eradicate the water hyacinth, but to control its growth” by cleaning up the rivers regularly, Guevara said. That’s because it helps preserve the ecosystem by purifying river water.

Moreover, PCIEERD is considering water hyacinth as a potential material for biogas production to enhance integrated waste management system at the municipal level.

Other than handicraft, water hyacinth can be processed into animal and fish feeds, charcoal briquette, fiber board, textile fiber, and organic fertilizer, Guevara explained.

Previously, DOST’s Philippine Council for Aquatic and Marine Research and Development “provided technical support to the province of Sultan Kudarat”, which transformed water hyacinth from Lake Buluan to urge province-wide cottage industries churning bags, slippers, and other quaint fashion items, PCAMRD Executive Director Cesario R. Pagdilao also disclosed.    

Sources & Photo Credit: Rodel G. Offemaria, S&T Media Service; Backpacking Philippines

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