The global pandemic has changed the way things are done in the region. The current direction of each NCI-SRD member agency has been affected and the approved ongoing projects in the established convergence area in Carood, Bohol were reassessed to address the food resiliency, availability, and accessibility issues in the country brought about by COVID-19.

Department of Agriculture Secretary William Dar rolled out immediate interventions for food production and availability and food price stabilization mechanisms through the implementation of the Ahon Lahat, Pagkain Sapat Contra sa Covid 19 or ALPAS COVID-19, cascaded in all regions. This resulted in the realignment of funds from infrastructure projects to the purchase of seeds and other agricultural inputs to prioritize food production. Currently, a portion of budgets for DA Region 7’s banner programs are realigned to increase rice production on this side of the country. With more than 12,000 hectares of agricultural lands in the Carood watershed convergence, the region has become a strong contender on food production in the country. 

According to Director Salvador Diputado, the Carood rice farmers are recipients of the Rice Resiliency Project under the Plant, Plant, Plant Program which started in May 2020. He added that more than 8,107 hectares of irrigated areas and another 8,200 hectares of rainfed areas were being planted this season with quality inbred rice. The DA also allocated Php27.7M bags of fertilizers worth Php34.6M to the rice farmers in the Carood watershed and offered a buy-one take-one scheme in the purchase of fertilizers to encourage the farmers to increase production.

Part of the practical strategies of the DA is to involve the indigenous people (IP) in the development by transforming part of their ancestral lands into vegetable and high-value crop farms.  Ancestral lands of the Visayan Eskaya covers around 1,000 hectares in the two municipalities of Pilar and Guindulman in the province of Bohol. Aside from high-value crops, the Eskaya tribe is provided 250 seedlings of strawberries by the local government unit (LGU).

Another major move in the region is the creation of Bohol’s Advanced Rice Technology (ART) program which was launched last January as a response to the national call to increase rice production and ensure food security in the country. The ART program has poured in support to the Carood farmers worth more than Php24.2M for the purchase of hybrid rice and farm inputs. Bohol Governor Arthur Yap assured his constituents of tight coordination between the provincial LGU and the DA. Sec. Dar even offered the LGU a zero-percent interest loan to farmers and fisherfolk through the Agricultural Credit Policy Council loan window.   

Aside from improving the healthcare system in the country, the pandemic has also uncovered the need to prioritize our local farmers and the agriculture sector which serves as the nation’s backbone for food production. COVID-19 exposed the need to improve the country’s food security as global food supply tightened. It is hoped that through DA’s interventions, a brighter future awaits us at the end of this all.