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Bureau of Soils and Water Management @ 65... A Journey With Purpose

By Loraine D. Cerillo – February 29, 2016

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The Bureau of Soils was formally organized in 1951 in Manila under the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources (DANR). Its operation started in Agusan province in the early 60's, where Butuan is the capital city and known for its timber industry.

During the early days of the Bureau, the activities implemented were mainly soil survey that were requested by the local government, private entrepreneur, or corporation who wish to engage in agri-related investments. At that time, soil sampling for fertility evaluation is being carried out by the Bureau through its laboratories in Cagayan de Oro City and Davao City.

Little that we know that there were only a few individuals and personnel performing at the early years of the Bureau. There was no permanent Soil Technologist assigned and it was difficult to assist and support the needs of the regions for the soil testing and sorts likewise to improve farming.

In 1987, under Executive Order No. 116, the Bureau was renamed Bureau of Soils and Water Management to broaden its horizon for the management and conservation of soil and water resources of the country. The following year, 1988, an agreement to put up the Soils Research and Development Center as a major facility of the BSWM was formally signed through the Japan International Cooperation Agency or JICA and the construction of the Center known as SOILSEARCH started. It was in March 18, 1991 when the Center was inaugurated.

Presently, the BSWM has seven technical divisions and three research centers in charge of securing the BSWM's vision of sustainable management of soil and water resources for agricultural production systems that are in harmony with nature where food is health-safe and food resource production is economically viable and socially acceptable.

Furthermore, measures and guidelines for the effective utilization of soil and water resources as vital agricultural resources to attain food security is being formulated by the Bureau. Water resources-based adaptation and mitigation measures that address multi-environment concerns on land degradation climate change, and agricultural biodiversity conservation is mandated.

The Bureau's operation fifty nine years back was handled by a few people and manpower is undeniably insufficient towards sustainable agriculture. Today, as the Soils and Water authorities celebrate another milestone in service in their 65th year of abundant service with the theme, "BSWM @65... KATATAGAN NG KABUHAYAN SA KANAYUNAN, LUPA AT TUBIG PANGALAGAAN," the Bureau proudly presents the 258 regular employees who perform tasks with passion and academic excellence as evidenced by 4 PhD and 34 MS holders who devote their lives for the service of our farmers, fisherfolks and concerned stakeholders throughout the country.

Some of the Bureau's Major Projects and Programs

National Organic Agriculture Program

The Philippines has become one of the top performing countries in organic agriculture since the country enacted the National Organic Agriculture Act in 2010. In said year, only 14,150 hectares of land was devoted to organic agriculture. As of 2014, this production area has increased to more than 83,000 hectares.

The Philippines now also has at least 40 locally certified farms and almost 50,000 practitioners and adopters of the program, enabling the country to reach last year's production of 417,879 metric tons, or more than 90% increase from 2010 production.

  • Small Scale Composting Facilities

    Each small-scale composting facilitity is composed of 15 kilogram African Night Crawlers, Shredder machine and a unit of vermi-tea brewer.

    Through SSCFs farmers are encourage to produce their own organic fertilizers ranging from 60-80 bags of composts every 45 days to help them increase their production output and economic returns. A higher profit is expected since these facilities can provide the needed vermicast/vermicompost of farmer-beneficiaries within the targeted 100-hectare cluster farms and sell its remainders from other farm owners. Beneficiaries of these composting facilities also get hands-on training by the help of BSWM staff and Regional Unit representatives.

  • Composting Facilities for Biodegradable Wastes

    A joint project of the DA-BSWM and Villar SIPAG Foundation to promote the use of organic inputs and bio-fertilizers in the production of the country’s staple food and high value crops.

    83 units of CFBW were already given island-wide to help increase the farmers' income by producing their own organic fertilizers from 1-2 tons a month through the use of available biodegradable farm inputs such as market wastes.

Cloud Seeding Operations (CSO)

Rain-making or Cloud Seeding Operations through the Agro-Hydrology and Rain Stimulation Section is one of the identified mitigating measures to adverse the impact of El Niño in the country. BSWM, as the lead implementing agency of the Department of Agriculture in cloud seeding operations, proposes to conduct CSOs in identified vulnerable agricultural areas and watersheds of the country to minimize the impact of El Niño to crop production and to minimize production losses.

Small Scale Irrigation Project (SSIP)

SSIPs are irrigation infrastructures with limited service areas, constructed in locations where permanent or continuous water sources are not available, and in which farmers have the control and management of the water abstraction from its source and using a level of technology which the farmers can effectively operate and maintain.

SSIP has a significant positive effect on cropping intensity, rice productivity, farm income, and employment. Furthermore, it expedites adoption of modern crop varieties and provided irrigation security during drought.

These SSIPs refer to Small Water Impounding Projects (SWIP), Small Diversion Dam (SDD), Shallow Tube Wells (STW) and Small Farm Reservoir (SFR).

  • Small Water Impounding Projects (SWIP)

    Small water impounding structure is a small scale earth dam structure with a structural height of 5 to 15 meters, constructed across a narrow depression or valley to collect and store rainfall and runoff during rainy season for immediate and future use. These reservoirs or check dams are located on small creeks or water courses of gully areas with potential uses for irrigation, fishery, flood control and soil erosion control. There are many small natural watersheds in the country where the establishment of SWIPs are appropriate.

    From 1974 to present, 444 SWIPs have been constructed. A total of 26,334 hectares were irrigated by SWIPs and 18,662 farmers were benefitted.

  • Small Diversion Dam

    A diversion dam is a concrete or rockfill structure constructed across a channel or river with continuous flow to raise the water level and allows diversion of water by gravity from the source to the service area. The components of the diversion dam consist of watershed area, concrete dam, irrigation and drainage of main dam (ogee shape or broad crested weir), upstream and downstream apron, retaining wall or river bank protection and wing walls, intake and outlet works and irrigation facilities.

    From the current inventory, 1,068 units of diversion dams were constructed; 54,703 hectares were irrigated with 38, 943 farmer beneficiaries.

  • Small Farm Reservoirs (SFR)

    The SFRs play a significant role in the alleviation of drought and the smallest version of small water impoundment. The SFRs whose dam heights are normally below four meters impound excess rainfall coming from small catchment areas with no defined streams. It is designed for use in a single farm. It can easily be constructed manually or using a bulldozer. The SFR provides irrigation for dry-season crops and supplements water for wet season cropping. The SFR also enables farmers to raise fish and livestock. The reservoirs have average pond areas of 500 to 2,500 m2. The catchment size is between 0.5 and 7 ha. The BSWM is leading the SFR program since 1995.

    A total of 6,850 SFRs have been constructed throughout the country. SFRs were aggressively constructed in drought stricken regions to mitigate the negative effect of dry spells.

  • Shallow Tubewell (STW) Irrigation

    The National Water Resources Board estimated that the Philippines has over 5.1 M shallow well areas (large contiguous areas underlain with shallow aquifers whose water resources can extracted by suction lifting). These are mostly located at elevations below 50 m such as alluvial and coastal plains and river valleys. In most of these shallow well areas, the ground water fluctuates from 0.5 to 4.0 m below the ground surface. Hundreds of individually owned pump systems drawing from groundwater aquifer are found in many rainfed flatlands. Water augmentation in tail-end sections of irrigation systems, using shallow groundwater with pump systems in growing non-rice crops in the dry season was found feasible.

    The number of shallow tubewells from 1974 to 2010 has reached 18,077 units, irrigating 58,961 hectares of 24,601 farmers.

Agro-Meteorological Weather Stations

The project aims to reduce vulnerability of the agriculture sector specifically, the resource-poor upland farmers and communities to the impacts of climate change and related natural disasters through timely and accurate agro-meteorological data monitoring.

The project is in collaboration with the Department of Science and Technology's Advance Science and Technology Institute (DOST-ASTI) for the needed technical support on the research and development and production of the AWS.

It has five components namely the Establishment/Installation/Maintenance of 100 AWS and Standard Manual Rain Gauges and upgrading of 20 PAGASA and 33 ASTI AWS, Conduct of Capacity Building Activities, Development of Agro-Ecological Cell/Zone, Policy and Advocacy and Project Management, Monitoring and Evaluation.

As of December 2015, 100 AWS were installed and 53 stations were upgraded in 84 new sites nationwide.

Sustainable Land Use Management under GEF 5

SLM was formally launched on August 26, 2015 in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to achieve effective cross-sectoral national and local environment promoting integrated landscape management that has been the unwavering commitment of the BSWM.

Part of this program is to address one of the major agricultural and environmental problems in the country which is land degradation due to various human activities and inappropriate agricultural practices.

SLM is expected to improve the conservation of cultivated areas in the uplands and the protection of critical slopes of the watersheds.

Mobile Soil Clinics

A joint project of DA-BSWM and National Food Authority (NFA) that targets to increase the corn production in the country through sufficient and balanced fertilization with the help of soil tests brought by the mobile soil test clinics. The availability of the technology transfer that the project will provide is intended to benefit the Farmers’ Cooperatives in major corn producing provinces such as Pangasinan, Isabela, Cagayan, Bukidnon and South Cotabato.

Sustainable Corn Production in Sloping Areas (SCoPSA)

SCoPSa is one of the DA's soil erosion and climate change adaptation measures through the coverage of corn areas vulnerable to soil erosion in the different locations of the country.

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