IN THE Philippines, about three-fourths of the 10 million hectares of agricultural lands rely on rainfed agriculture.
Rain-fed agriculture means farming practises which rely mainly on rainfall for irrigation.
This is where “bhoochetana” can be implemented in the rainfed areas.
The term “bhoochetana” literally means reviving the soils, which involves improved management practices, capacity-building activities and good adaptation strategies to unlock the potentials of agriculture, to increase productivity, and to strengthen coping mechanisms against climatic disturbances.
Some 10 years ago, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) launched the Bhoochetana program in Karnataka, India, which was then headed by former Department of Agriculture (DA) secretary William Dar.
It was learned that ICRISAT began the project with communities in the south-western region of India that are “registering zero growth in agriculture.”
Some five years into the project, which is mainly focused on soil nutrition, the program managed to increase small holder farm yields by 20 to 66 percent.
As the term implies, the Bhoochetana program of the Government of Karnataka and ICRISAT aims to help the dryland farmers in Karnataka (second largest rain-fed state in India) through science-led integrated approach.
Upon returning to the Philippines, Dar, together with the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) and the Yamang Lupa Program initiated the adoption of Bhoochetana principles across farming communities in the country, particularly located in three pilot sites in Quezon, Samar, and Zamboanga.
Some four years later, it proved to have yielded similar results as to ICRISAT’s initiatives in India.
Last Nov. 7, 2018 the research team from DA-Regional Field office 9 (RFO-9) in the Zamboanga Peninsula presented a paper titled “Adoption of Bhoochetana (Yamang Lupa Program) Principles and Approaches in Boosting Agricultural Productivity in Region 9” during the 30th National Research Symposium where it won the AFMA Best R&D Paper Gold Award.
The Bhoochetana program also established Small Farmer Reservoirs (SFR) to deposit the excess water during rainy season, which will eventually serve as an alternative source during the dry season.
According to Dar, analyzing the soil health status at a community level will serve as the guide in formulating barangay-wide specific nutrient management recommendations.
These recommendations then reach small holder farmers through the use of ICT (information communication technologies) taught during capacity building activities.
The ICT mainly utilized in the Bhoochetana project are Soil Health Cards, which served as a farmer’s long-term guide to maintaining soil health.
It provides the farmer with information regarding the status of the soil as well as offers advice on fertilizer usage and other nutrient recommendations.
By ensuring the health of the soil, stakeholders are guaranteed of robust crop productivity.
Following this development, Dar comprehensively wrote about how expansion can be made possible in the Philippines.
“Bhoochetana is not even rocket science, rather, it is also a system of precision agriculture,” he pointed out.
Considering the crucial role of rainfed agriculture, it would be advantageous to implement the project by adopting India’s principle of the bhoocheta program in many parts of the country./PN