Thursday, April 03, 2008

The rains of summer

While the Philippines (and other tropical countries) experienced prolonged dry season last year – regular rains came last August, instead of June – the country also has prolonged rainy season this year. Regular rains normally stop by end-November, but we still had rains until February. The “cold front” brought about by winds from Siberia and China lasted until the second week of March this year. By mid-March, it was obviously summer as the cold wind was gone and we had less cloud in the sky.

Almost coinciding with the formal onset of summer, was the rapid spike in rice and other food prices here and abroad. Stories about rice importation, inspection of some rice traders, corruption charges of “missing rice” from the government’s National Food Authority (NFA), even reference to “rice crisis”, are in media everyday.

So when thick clouds form in the sky, it is a big respite for us. And when it rains, even briefly, it’s a bonus. Because the rains cool not only our hot roads, hot environment, hot temper, but the rains also help irrigate the few rice farms. The “La Nina” phenomenon should be responsible for those brief but much needed rain showers.

At this time of the year, especially in the northern provinces of the country, majority of rice fields are on fallow and they become pasture areas for the cattle which cannot find young grasses around. Other rice fields are planted with corn as the price of this crop has also risen recently. I have noticed an increase in corn plantation this year compared to last year and the previousa years, at least in the province of Pangasinan.

The dry season of summer should be an opportunity for people and farmers to improve and repair old irrigation canals and dams, and/or build new ones. In our farm for instance, if we can raise the water level in our short irrigation canal by about 1 meter, nearly 1 hectare of additional, relatively flat land on the other side of the creek can be planted with rice or other crops. We use hoses to transport the impounded water on one side of the creek to the other side.

If people will become more self-reliant and depend less on government hand-outs and projects, say in repairing and/or building new irrigation canals and small water impounding structures, they should be able to improve their rice harvest (or other crops) in the next planting season just a few months away from now.

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