A choice between farm work and free medical service

By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
www.nordis.net

LACUB, Abra — Under the mid day sun of Buneg, Lacub; she stood in the middle of the rice paddy she tills. She was winnowing the last heap of palay grains while most of the villagers gathered at the municipal hall grounds to avail of free medical services.

RAKEM. Two women locals of Buneg harvests rice using a rakem, a small blade that they put in between their middle and ring finger to cut palay stalks. Their harvest, they say, is not enough for their own consumption. Photo by Divine Loraine Peñaflor
RAKEM. Two women locals of Buneg harvests rice using a rakem, a small blade that they put in between their middle and ring finger to cut palay stalks. Their harvest, they say, is not enough for their own consumption. Photo by Divine Loraine Peñaflor

“It would have been nice to get a free check up but we have to finish the work here,” said Precy Sagban, 28 and a mother of three.

It can be recalled that health and human rights groups in cooperation with the local government of Lacub staged a medical mission at Poblacion, Lacub, on December 17 to 18 to provide free medical check up, health education and some medicines.

But many Lacub folk were busy in the fields. It was harvest time.

“If the medical mission would extend until Sunday (December 19), I would have gone,” Sagban said.

“We are but tenants, we need to finish work in the field so we could tend to other sources of livelihood to augment our meager harvest,” she said.

Sagban tills about half a hectare of rice paddies. She does all the work in the field and spends for all the farm expenses. At harvest time, her landlord gets half of the harvest.

“We used to harvest 200 bundles of palay, 100 goes to the owner of the land and the remaining 100 would be our share,” she said. “It could barely feed us for six months,” she added.

This harvest Sagban managed to produce 160 bundles. She said the harvest has been decreasing since some four to five years now.

One bundle of palay when milled would produce a little over a kilo of rice.

Most Buneg rice farmers could only plant for one cropping due to lack of irrigation. Land preparation starts in June when the rainy season starts, planting is in August and harvest is in December. After harvest the fields are left to fallow until the rains come.

“If only there was an irrigation system we could have two croppings of palay a year,” Ama Bansilan Sawadan, a Buneg elder said.

Ama Bansilan said there are many water sources that could be tapped for irrigation in Buneg, enough to irrigate the existing rice paddies even extending to adjacent villages. “But the Department of Agriculture seems to have forgotten our village because no irrigation system has ever been built yet,” he said.

Ama Bansilan urged DA personnel to help the Lacub farmers improve their harvest. “Aside from infrastructure, we also need technical assistance that include basic education on pest control, increasing yield and the like and the DA has yet to send personnel to teach us,” he said.

“Food is a basic need and if government cannot ensure enough food for the people then how can the people become productive citizens,” he said.

The Buneg elder said increasing palay yield is their most urgent need to ensure enough food for the people of Lacub. “Our villages are far from the town center where we could buy rice, where to get money to buy additional rice supply is another problem,” he said.

To reach Poblacion, the Lacub towncenter, you must travel a six-hour rough ride along a dirt road that is too dusty during dry season and too muddy during the rainy season. It is not advisable to use low clearance vehicle since you have to literally cross the Binongan River at least once to get to the town center. When the river rises due to strong rains no vehicle could cross. # nordis.net

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