By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — A soil-borne disease that infests camote (sweet potato) plants in Ifugao villages has resulted to a food crisis, according to Alyansa dagiti Pesante iti Taeng Kordilyera (Apit-Tako), a regional alliance of peasants in the Cordillera.
Fernando Bagyan of Apit-Tako said camote is a staple food for Ifugaos in Namal and Numpaling villages of Asipulo, Wangwang and Tullodan villages in Tinoc. He said the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) in 2014 identified the disease as Fusarium wilt, a wilt fungal disease which attacks the water-carrying vessels of the plant causing it to wilt and die.
It can be recalled that in August of 2014, the Center for Development Programs in the Cordillera (CDPC) and Montañosa Research and Development Center (MRDC) reported that Namal village was already experiencing food shortage as camote harvest drastically dropped due to the Fusarium wilt infestation.
“Fusarium wilt infestation has become worst today so that residents are forced to leave their villages to seek employment in nearby towns so that they could buy food,” Bagyan said.
According to Bagyan, the decrease in camote harvest in Asipulo started in 2013, such that residents from the two villages were already buying camote at P150 per kayabang (10 to 15 kilos) in the adjacent town of Tinoc. But he said the camote producing villages of Tinoc are now experiencing the same problem. He added that even the camote-producing nearby Ambaguio village in Kayapa, Nueva Vizcaya, is also affected by Fusarium wilt.
Bagyan shared that camote is the staple food in these areas because of the general terrain that limits rice production. He said that in Namal and Numpaling, their rice production can only feed them for four months, so they eat camote the rest of the year.
“But now they are forced to get out of the community to earn money and buy rice because camote production has decreased,” he said.
Bagyan further said that some villages in Benguet have also reported a decrease in camote yield due to Fusarium wilt.
“The disease is spreading and so is the threat to the food security of affected villages. This must be stopped or at least controlled or people will go hungry,” he said.
Bagyan said that Apit-Tako, in coordination with CDPC and MRDC, are conducting a continuing research about the said disease in hope of finding a way to control or eradicate it.
He said they also tapped the Benguet State University (BSU) for technical assistance.
He added that they are also coordinating with the municipal agriculture offices to urgently address and arrest the problem. #nordis.net