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The Soil Conservation and Management Division Plays A Key Role in the Promotion and Implementation of Sustainable Land Management (SLM)

By Engr. Samuel M. Contreras – December 03, 2012

The Soil Conservation and Management Division (SCMD) as one of the technical divisions of the Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM), has played a pivotal role in the implementation of sustainable land management to address land degradation. Despite the many challenges, the division contributed to the overall efforts of the BSWM in developing awareness and advocacy of farmers on the need to adopt soil and water conservation technologies to protect our natural resource base while providing livelihoods to upland dwellers. Primarily, the SCMD with its strong 21 technical and administrative staff under four sections (i.e. Soil Conservation and Land Use Planning, Soil Fertility Rehabilitation, Soil Management, and Land Development) is engaged in the implementation of soil conservation guided farm which serves as a demonstration farm and learning center of appropriate soil and water conservation technologies. In the process, it provides technical assistance to interested farmers and soil and water conservation advocates in the establishment of the demonstration farm and in the conduct of farmers’ trainings on soil conservation. Over the years, the SCMD has engaged and supported the implementation and promotion of eco-friendly farming system such as agro-forestry, conservation tillage, contour farming, natural vegetative strips development, and organic farming through the soil conservation guided farm project and agricultural watershed management.

BSWM recognized that soil and water management in the agriculture sector should be looked into within the general framework of sustainable development goal that addresses environmental challenges (e.g. climate change, land degradation, bio-diversity loss), attainment of economic targets, and provision of social needs. In this respect, the BSWM, through the SCMD is currently participating in relevant national programs that include the DENR-PAWB projects “Partnership for Biodiversity Conservation: Mainstreaming into Agricultural Landscape (BPP). “As a member of the DA-TWG, the BSWM is expected to contribute in the development of a national program and policy for the promotion of indigenous crops and biodiversity-friendly farming practices.

The BSWM, through the SCMD, is also one of the key members of the National Technical Working Group (NTWG) organized for the implementation of the ASEAN Peatland Forest Project (APFP) also being spearheaded by DENR-PAWB. As agreed, the BSWM will provide technical assistance on wetland conservation farming including soil fertility and crop management, mapping and validation of wetlands, and developing options for agriculture in peatland ecosystem. The division has also participated in the various R & D activities. In collaboration with the Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences (JIRCAS), it has just completed a research titled “Evaluation of Pigeon Pea Cover Cropping and “No Till” as a Soil and Crop Management Practice in the Corn Areas of Isabela.” It is currently working with JIRCAS on another research project “Relationship between frequent gully erosion and herbicide resistant corn variety utilization in Cagayan.” The research intends to explain the actual field situation of gully erosion and its relationship with frequent herbicide application in sloping corn areas in Cagayan River Basin.

While there are on-going researches to explain the probable causes of soil erosion and look for possible interventions to solve the problems, it is also known that there are already good practices on soil and water conservation and management developed by various research institutions and being adopted by farmers. However, these practices remain disperse and not properly documented. An effective knowledge management and decision support tools for up-scaling and replicating these good practices are therefore very important. Along this line, the BSWM plays a key role as it takes the lead, through the SCMD, in the participation of the Philippines in the World Overview of Conservation Approaches and Technologies (WOCAT), a global network of specialists working in the field of Sustainable Land Management (SLM). It aims to collect, compare, disseminate and utilize information on soil and water conservation. It also provides a framework for Knowledge Management and Decision Support for SLM. A local counterpart, the Philippine Conservation Approaches and Technologies (PhilCAT) was therefore organized, with BSWM as the current chair, to strengthen the Philippine participation to WOCAT. The SCMD facilitated the holding of regular meetings of PhilCAT including relevant events such as the 13th WOCAT Workshop and Steering Meeting (WWSM) on October 12-17, 2007 and the WOCAT-ASOCON Workshop on March 26-28, 2012.

As part of our efforts to strengthen our linkage with other WOCAT members, the BSWM hosted four (4) Bhutanese Study Tours and Institutional Visits since 2008. Participants during the visits consist of District Governors and Middle Level Managers from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries of the Royal Government of Bhutan. These visits provided the opportunity for BSWM to showcase available SLM technologies that could be adopted in Bhutan. As part of the learning process, interaction between Bhutanese visitors and farmers and local leaders was also organized during the visits.

Aside from awareness and advocacy campaign and knowledge management, an enabling environment in terms of a unified soil and water-related policy, institutional arrangements, and financing to broaden the implementation of sustainable land management are also crucial. The BSWM, through the SCMD, participated in the deliberation of the House Bill (HB) 4468 that seeks to promote soil and water conservation technologies and approaches for SLM in the Philippines. Introduced by Hon. Sharon S. Garin and Hon. Juan Edgardo M. Angara, the bill was recently approved by the Committee on Appropriation of Congress. Once passed into a law, it will further enhance and institutionalize the implementation of soil and water conservation at the local level.

Soil resources are under threat by human-induced and natural factors. Yet, the risk to livelihoods emanating from land and soil degradation including watershed degradation, does not receive the attention it deserves. With these challenges, the SCMD will remain in the forefront as one of the technical divisions of the BSWM that will promote SLM to protect our soil which, is a key for securing water, food, energy, and building our resilience to climate change as emphasized by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

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The Soil Conservation and Management Division Family

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