By Rita dela Cruz, DA Communications Group

To help increase the country’s food supply amid the government’s efforts to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, the Department of Agriculture (DA) is eyeing portions of vast ancestral lands nationwide to be transformed into food production areas.

“In this time of crisis, we need practical strategies that can produce immediate results. Thus, we are calling on our fellow countrymen, the indigenous peoples or IPs, to transform part if not most of their idle ancestral lands into vegetable and high-value crop farms,” said Agriculture Secretary William Dar.

“Our IPs can also consider going into diversified farming systems, integrating vegetable and livestock raising, that will provide them not only continuous source of food, but also source of additional income,” said Secretary Dar.

“We will allot a substantial budget to bankroll the enhanced food production program in ancestral lands,” he added.

“It forms part of the Duterte administration’s P31-billion Plant, Plant, Plant Program, where we will, among other projects, intensify the promotion of urban and community agriculture as one of the interventions to help ensure availability of and access to food nationwide,” the DA chief said.

According to the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), in terms of territories, about 7.7 million hectares are occupied by the IPs, or 26 percent of the country’s total land area of 30 million hectares total. As of 2019, the NCIP has issued 243 certificates of ancestral domain titles, with a total land area of 5.7 million hectares and a total of 1.3 million IPs as rights holders.

“Aside from profitable types of vegetables — like onion, string beans, potato, carrots, pineapple, garlic, cauliflower, and watermelon — our brother IPs can grow cacao, coffee, abaca or black pepper, or they may go into raising native pigs and free-range chicken,” he added.

Other crops include ampalaya, asparagus, cabbage, cassava, garlic, ginger, mungbean, papaya, peanut, sweet potato, and tomato.

Emphasizing that food production is as equally important as a major strategy in the current fight against Covid-19 pandemic, the DA has realigned its programs and refocus its budget to specifically enhance food production nationwide,” the DA chief concluded.

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