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Norway introduces sustainable agriculture using solar-powered irrigation in Phl

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A farming community in Calapan, Oriental Mindoro, is now enjoying a worry-free future in terms of rice productivity and sustainability with the turn-over of the solar-powered water pump project providing much-needed irrigation in Barangay Santa Cruz this year.

Dubbed “Agos Para sa Masaganang Ani,” this solar-powered water pump project is being undertaken by sustainable crop nutrition solutions specialist Yara Fertilizers Philippines, Inc. (Yara), in cooperation with the Royal Norwegian Embassy. Its goal is to bring down the cost of irrigation in the barangay, which currently uses traditional water pumps running on diesel fuel. The project would result in better profitability and secured yields for the farmers plus reduced CO2 emissions as the pumps will no longer rely heavily on diesel fuel to draw in water and irrigate the land.

Improving livelihood, securing the planet

During the formal inauguration of the project earlier this month, Ambassador Christian Halaas Lyster shared that the government of Norway has always been supportive of projects that align with its advocacies such as climate change, environmental protection, and food security.

Photo shows Norwegian Ambassador to the Philippines Christian Lyster (standing with microphone), while delivers his speech in front of the project beneficiaries from Barangay Sta. Cruz Farmers Association. Looking on from the presidential table are (seated, from left:) Toby Goodroad, Vice President for New Business and Innovations, Yara Asia and Africa; Michael Ardieta, Country Manager of Yara; Nikki Delfin, Adviser of the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Manila; William Jensen, Second Secretary of the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Manila; and Jayson Familara, HESQ and Product Stewardship Manager of Yara Asia and Africa.

“Norway gives priority to increasing food security and transitioning to renewable energy. This project does both at the same time. We hope this pilot project is something that can be scaled across different regions of the Philippines, to ensure increased food production while decreasing the overall carbon footprint”, Ambassador Lyster said.

The embassy has provided a PHP 4-million grant for the project through Yara, which was used to source and install 16 units of solar-powered water pump that would benefit 55 farmers servicing 80 hectares of rice fields. Based on the current configuration, one water pump unit can irrigate up to five hectares of land. 

Growing a nature-positive food future 

As the 16 units have already been put in place, Yara will continuously engage with the farmers until April this year to monitor and evaluate the irrigation system’s performance as well as its impact on the productivity and profitability of the farmer beneficiaries.

During the acceptance ceremony that followed after the project’s inauguration, members of the farming community in Barangay Sta. Cruz shared their sentiments.

Michael Ardieta, Country Manager of Yara Fertilizers Philippines Inc., explained how the idea of installing solar-powered water pumps came about. “It’s always been Yara’s ambition to grow a nature-positive food future. Under that ambition is climate neutrality, regenerative agriculture, and prosperity. So, for this project, instead of using 100% diesel, para mabawasan yung emissions, naisip naming gamitin ang araw or solar power. Malaking bagay yun sa aspeto ng climate change. For regenerative agriculture, Yara is here to provide crop nutrition solutions as part of proper farming management like planting at the right time, putting the right amount and type of fertilizers, plus of course, the availability of water source,” he explained.  

According to Ardieta, the most important theme for the project is prosperity. 

“When we say prosperity, what we want is for the farmers to benefit. Ang gusto natin tumaas din ang kita nila. Kung mababawasan ang cost of production nila (farmers), by using less diesel and relying on solar power instead, then it’d mean additional income for them. That’s basically the main rationale for this project and we are grateful to the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Manila for entrusting us with this project,” he added. 

Farmer beneficiaries see cost-savings, increased rice yields

During the acceptance ceremony that followed after the project’s inauguration, members of the farming community in Barangay Sta. Cruz shared their sentiments. 

Homonobo Antenor (front), president of the Bgy. Sta Cruz Farmers Association and one of the project beneficiaries, checks the water coming out of the solar-powered water pump. Behind him is Crisologo Mendoza, another project beneficiary.

According to Homonobo Antenor, president of Barangay Sta. Cruz Farmers Association in Calapan, the project is a very big help to them. “Unang-una po sa libreng patubig na ibinibigay nito, makakatipid na kami sa pagbili ng krudo. Kung solar power na po ang gamit namin, maibabawas na namin ang halaga ng pagbili ng diesel sa aming mga gastusin sa araw-araw.” 

Crisologo Mendoza, the very first beneficiary of a solar-powered water pump in the area, also chimed in, saying, “Malaking tulong po ito sa aming mga magsasaka. Tataas po ang antas ng aming ani pati na rin ang antas ng aming kita, at bababa din po ang gastusin namin sa pagtatanim ng palay.” 

Susan Mendoza (forefront, holding a ribbon), one of the project beneficiaries from Bgy. Sta Cruz Farmers Association, together with (back, from left:) HE Christian Lyster, Ambassador of Royal Norwegian Embassy in Manila; Crisologo Mendoza, another project beneficiary; Mark Moog, Regional Sales Manager of Norhth Phils. Yara; Michael Ardieta, Country Manager of Yara; and Jayson Familiara, HESQ and Product Stewardship Manager of Yara Asia and Africa. Also in photo (partly hidden) is William Jensen, Second Secretary of the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Manila.

Another project beneficiary, Susan Mendoza, expressed hope that the solar-powered water pump can help her recover from a dismal yield last planting season. “Nitong nakaraang anihan, kami po ay nakapag-ani lang ng anim na kaban ng palay sa 3/4 hektarya. Hindi po namin kinaya ang gastusin para ma-suplayan ng tubig ang aming palayan,” she lamented. 

During a courtesy call to Calapan City Mayor Marilou Morillo in her office, Ambassador Lyster shared that the Norwegian Embassy has always been supportive of the government’s renewable energy plans and that it has always looked for projects that can be upscaled or replicated.  

Calapan City Mayor Marilou Morillo (right) shakes hand with HE Christian Lyster, Ambassador of the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Manila, during a courtesy call in her office.

“If our partnership with Yara for this project is successful, then we have a sustainable model that can be replicated and upscaled,” he said. 

For her part, Mayor Morillo thanked the ambassador and his team for their support to Calapan City, saying, “I’m so happy that Yara Philippines together with the Norwegian Embassy has helped our people a lot. As you can see, Calapan is more of an agricultural city and we really need these types of projects. I hope that this endeavor could serve as an opening for more cooperation between us. Thank you for visiting us here in Calapan, and helping our people.”

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