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From left to right: Municipal Agriculturist Ireneo Lumawag; ATI Region 6 Center Director Eden DLR. Bautista; Punong Barangaya Jomar Aplasca; and SB Member Speed Pelaez lead the ribbon-cutting ceremony that signals the opening of the first-ever ATI-CRA Livestock Evacuation Center.

What will you do when you see your pigs drowning? Save them immediately, right? But where will you bring them and how will you manage to bring them?

Oftentimes during an emergency, the farmers in Barangay Cogon are doubtful whether they will follow immediate evacuation protocols set by the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office because they look after their homes and their source of income - that is livestock! What will happen to them when all their livelihoods were washed out? This recurring situation experienced by the farmers led to ATI’s innovative idea of establishing a safe haven for both the farmers and their livelihoods in times of calamities - the first-ever ATI-CRA LIVESTOCK EVACUATION CENTER.

The devastating look of Barangay Cogon, Sigma, Capiz when submerged in flood waters.

Being true to its mandate of empowering agriculture and fisheries stakeholders amidst challenges brought about by climate crisis, the Agricultural Training Institute has been helping vulnerable communities through its Climate Resilient Agriculture (CRA) Project. In Region 6, one of the identified communities in Barangay Cogon in the Municipality of Sigma, Capiz. The municipality is confronted by continuous flooding during the rainy season, where approximately 100 hectares of rice fields are submerged in floodwater for one to two weeks, including the said Barangay, where almost 90% of the rice field are affected. Rice production is the primary source of income for farmers in the area. Sadly, it is severely affected by frequent flooding. Significant losses in rice and vegetable production forced them to look for other livelihood income, mostly those that can be easily evacuated and saved.

The Center conducted Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) and found in the project analysis, the farmers identified the Sustainable Pig Farming (SPF) technology as their livelihood under the CRA project. In response, the Center provided interventions on deep-litter housing and a superior quality breed of sows. Farmers were also trained on swine production and health management through the Farmers Livestock School. This strategy enhanced the knowledge, attitude, and skills of farmers towards sustainable pig farming.

Undeniably, some pigs experience the disastrous flood helplessly.

On the problem of continued flooding, ATI conducted series of consultations with CRA project beneficiaries and experts. As the results revealed, the establishment of an evacuation center for livestock could instantly help farmers save their animals. At the same time, it could provide sound decisions to evacuate immediately from their areas to save themselves and their livestock when flooding comes. The CRA project team partnered with the National Livestock Program (NLP) of the Institute and the latter provided fund and technical assistance in the establishment and completion of the evacuation center.

As part of its 34th founding anniversary, ATI Region 6, headed by its Center Director, Dr. Eden DLR Bautista, led the launching of the Livestock Evacuation Center on January 29, 2021, at Barangay Cogon together with the local officials and staff of the Municipal Agriculture Office of the Local Government Unit of Sigma, Capiz. Sangguniang Bayan members, Hon. Esperidion “Speed” Pelaez and Hon. Jimmy Apuyo graced the activity representing Hon. Christopher T. Andaya, Mayor of the said municipality. The Barangay officials, Cogon CRA Farmers Association members, and some ATI staff were also present during the launching program.

The activity started with facility blessing and ribbon-cutting ceremony and launching the program. Hon. Jomar J. Aplasca, Punong Barangay, welcomed guests and constituents and expressed his sincere gratitude for the project and other assistance received by the barangay from ATI Region 6. Vianney T. Ojerio, CRA Project Officer, shared how the project was conceptualized and enumerated ongoing programs of the Institute in the area. He emphasized that the Center is a multi-purpose facility. It shall serve as an evacuation area for livestock during the flood, and as a farmers’ center during the dry season, where the farmers hold meetings, seminars/training, and other community events. He is also thankful for the NLP's support for providing financial and technical assistance in the realization of the said project.

Hon. Speed Pelaez, Sangguniang Bayan member, and former Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Officer, also shared his gratitude to the Department of Agriculture and ATI for initiating such a noble project for the people of Barangay Cogon. “Sa ti-on sang baha, ang mga pumuluyo nagahambal, hindi namon pagbaya-an ang amon kasapatan. Maano na lang kami pagkatapos sang baha kung wala na kami pangabuhi-an?”(During the flood, people are saying that they cannot afford to leave their animals. They are worried about what will happen to the animals because they are their livelihood after the flood.

He further said, “Nagapasalamat ako kag naappreciate ko gid ang gin-obra nga ini sang ATI kay diri naton mapamatud-an nga sa sitwasyon naton ng aini may nakatalupangod diri sa aton nga ahensiya sang gobyerno kag first ini sa Capiz, wala ini sa iban.” (I am thankful for ATI because through this project we have proven that despite our situation, we are given attention by a national government agency. This is first in the Province of Capiz. We cannot find this in other areas.
In closing, he expressed, “Ginapangamuyo ko gid nga sa aton banwa madugangan ini naton kag mapalapta pa gid sa iban nga barangay. Daku ini nga factor nga makaluwas sang aton livestock kag sang aton pangabuhi-an. Ipaga-presentar ini namon kay Mayor, and with assistance from ATI, mabuligan kita.” (I pray that this will be implemented in other barangays in our municipality. This is a huge factor that will save our livestock and our livelihoods. We will present this to the Mayor, and with the assistance of ATI, they can help us.) Hon. Pelaez pledged his commitment to helping ATI in developing a Manual of Evacuation Center’s operations and management and evacuation drills that will be integrated into plans and programs of other barangays in the municipality.

In her inspirational message, Dr. Bautista highlighted that “in adversity, there is an opportunity.” She related this to the situation of the farmers in the barangay and emphasized that a good attitude and a positive mindset are the key ingredients to face the challenges that life brings amidst vulnerabilities to flooding and the CoViD-19 pandemic. She encouraged the farmers to nurture positivity and become more resilient. “Climate change is already here; it cannot be changed. This implied that we must adjust and adapt, and strengthen our resiliency,” said Dr. Bautista.

She also reiterated the importance of conducting a participatory rural appraisal, where the idea of establishing the evacuation center came up. She also encouraged farmers especially those that are far from the evacuation center to be more innovative. She further cited an example of creating a two-storey pigpen, where the second floor can be used for other livestock animals. She also applauded the Cogon CRA Farmers Association and the LGU-Sigma for their enthusiasm and support for the programs of ATI. “Dapat magmayabang kita nga kita nagapakaon sa more than 100 million Filipinos. Kung wala kita, sigurado gid nga gutom sila.” (We should be proud that we are feeding the more than 100 million Filipinos. Without us, they go hungry.) Finally, she thanked everyone who has made this long-time dream for ATI and farmers a reality.

Marilyn U. Aguilar leads the newly-organized Cogon CRA Farmer Association

The oath-taking ceremony of the newly organized and registered Cogon CRA Farmer Association (CRAFA) was officiated by Hon. Pelaez. Marilyn U. Aguilar was elected as the President of the Association.

The Center is situated in one of the areas with the highest elevation in the barangay and the lot was shared by the project beneficiaries, Mr. and Mrs. Richard, and Robelyn M. Japsay. It can accommodate at least six to ten sows. As a multi-purpose facility, it can also be used as a farmers’ training center in the absence of flood. It will be managed and maintained by the CRA farmers associated with the supervision of the ATI Region 6 and the Municipal Agriculture Office of Sigma.

So, what will you do when you see your pigs drowning? Save them by bringing them to the livestock evacuation center. After all, the pigs know how to swim, and they stay afloat.

(with words from Crysta Gaudiel)