In observance of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, Senator Loren Legarda urged the government to promote the use of soil and water conservation technologies to combat drought and prevent land degradation that is affecting about one-third of the country’s population.
Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committees on Climate Change, Finance, and Foreign Relations, said, “Harnessing soil and water conservation measures and practices including rainwater harvesting, watershed protection and sloping technology is critical in reducing soil erosion and enhancing agricultural productivity.”
The veteran legislator stressed that land degradation in the country has affected more than 33 million Filipinos and is likely to contribute to widespread and severe poverty in the rural areas.
The seasoned lawmaker noted that the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Soils and Water Management estimated that 45% or around 13 million hectares of arable land in the Philippines are either moderately or severely eroded due to massive deforestation and adoption of unsustainable land management practices in the upland areas, further compounded by the unabated use of urea in modern farming, which has led to actual soil degradation.
The lady senator has authored Senate Bill No. 422 or “An Act Promoting Soil and Water Conservation Technologies and Approaches for Sustainable Land Management in the Philippines” which seeks to support Sustainable Land Management (SLM) programs for livelihood improvement, particularly that of upland farmers and indigenous peoples, and for the prevention of land degradation. Said measure also includes provision for a national soil and water conservation programme; the creation of model farms that will showcase water and soil conservation; and the construction of small-scale rainwater harvesting structures.
Specifically, the bill aims to establish 1,000 Soil and Water Conservation Guided Farms within five years from its effectivity to showcase sustainable land management best practices such as sloping agricultural land technology, organic-based agriculture, farm waste and residue management, wastewater recycling and re-use, rainwater harvesting; to establish 10,000 units of small-scale rainwater harvesting systems consisting of rainwater reservoir development, watershed management, and service area development in strategic upland areas throughout the country; and to capacitate and empower local government units and farmers associations in the implementation and operationalization and maintenance of soil and water conservation model farms and rainwater harvesting system.
“The degradation of soil in our farmlands will eventually lead to lower agricultural output despite the application of modern farming practices. This will affect not only the livelihood of our farmers but also our food supply. We have to act now before it is too late,” Legarda concluded.