The opportunity of visiting India came to Dr. Eriberto D. Salang, Dean of the WMSU College of Agriculture, and a proponent of Bhoochetana Pilot Program in Zamboanga Peninsula after he was invited by the International Crop Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT). ICRISAT is a United Nation Agency that conducts researches on plant production on areas with not enough water. Dr. Salang was one of the 12 representatives of the Philippine team to see how Bhoochetana (soil rejuvenation) practices are implemented by government agencies and adopted by farmers of the states of Karnataka and Adhra Pradesh in India.
India has 28 states and the foods produced by farmers for its 1.2 billion population are sufficient to sustain the country. Karnataka is a model state for farming where Bhoochetana originated and Andra Pradesh is where ICRISAT is situated. The scientific visit was financed by ICRISAT with a $ 2,300.00 US dollar budget purposely for the Filipino team to interact with ICRISAT scientists on how the program could be implemented in the two regions—Region IV-A and Region IX, in the Philippine as pilot program areas.
The Bhoochetana program enables farmers to raise production to 20% in areas where water is scarce. The program focuses on soil health, watershed management, varietal improvements and fertilizer management. Soil heath looks at the soil fertility mapping where macro and micro-nutrients for plants and soil pH are examined. They do not only include Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium but also Boron, Sulfur, Zinc, and Magnesium.
In watershed management, the approach is community based where water impounding or check dams are practiced. India has a very minimal amount of rainfall per year—about 800 mm only. However, they collect water through water impounding—entrapping the water in a creek or river. One creek channel has several dams to entrap water. For them, using water directly from a dam is prohibited as its main purpose is for recharging the deep well and the soil water. They conserve it by adopting policies regarding the use of entrapped water. Other practices are intercropping, bioengineering approach, and water harvesting.
In varietal improvement, the proponents of the Bhoochetana program do not introduce crops uncommon to farmers. They introduce the hybrid varieties with high yielding characteristics and require less water and nutrients. Fertilization is done by combining organic and inorganic fertilizers such as vermicompost, Borax, Zinc Sulfate and Magnesium sulfate – (not commonly done in the Philippines). These are the common fertilizers they use other than the NPK source.
As these are the core concepts of Bhoochetana, the Government of Karnataka, India succeeded in the implementation because the Local Government Units and other national or state agencies with similar concerns and specific goals of helping alleviate poverty and food security had converged themselves to enforce the program by performing each of their functions for the welfare of the farmers. Also, the participation of their state universities and colleges in agriculture also contributed to the success of the program with the help of reviews and revisions in their curriculum. They also empower farmers through capability building and series of workshops and trainings lecturing specific technologies particularly on crops for resilient dryland system.
In the Philippines, Bhoochetana program will be introduced in two regions. One of which is Zamboanga Peninsula. However, for it to be more appealing to the mainstream Filipino, the name will be changed to “InangLupa” – still adapting the similar concept of Bhoochetana, which is an Indian term. Its importance to the Filipino farmers is so great that it would give them new technologies on how to raise production to 20% since these farmers are considered as the top food suppliers to feed 98 millions of Filipinos. With the introduction of “InangLupa”, this will help Filipino farmers to boost food supply and alleviate poverty and food security. (Dr. Eriberto D. Salang, CAgri-WMSU)