Small farmers in rain-fed farmlands of Ilocos Norte will now have a chance to grow high-value crops even during summer by harnessing the power of the sun as alternative energy.

Photo: HARNESSING SUN’S POWER. A solar-powered irrigation system project of Ilocos Norte province funded through its share in tobacco excise tax. Ilocos Norte farmers in rainfed areas can now produce off-season fruits and vegetables. (Photo courtesy of the Provincial Agriculture Office)

Tapping the sun’s energy is the Lang-ayan village in Currimao town, where a solar-powered irrigation system with at least four solar panels was installed near a communal food garden where its residents can grow off-season fruits and vegetables.

Funded by the province’s share in tobacco excise tax, there are four units of this kind of small-scale irrigation project being pilot tested in the second district of Ilocos Norte where water is scarce during the summer months of March to May or even longer due to prolonged El Niño phenomenon.

The other units are located in the rural Barangays of Camguidan and Camandingan in Batac City and Barbar, Pinili town.

Worth PHP100,000 per unit, the solar-powered irrigation system may be a bit costly for small farmers but in the long run, it is more beneficial to them because they will no longer spend on fuel to irrigate their farmlands, provincial agriculturist Norma Lagmay said on Friday.

Each unit can irrigate around 10-15 hectares of high-value crops, Lagmay said.

“This is free-flowing and we are giving our farmers an alternative for them to appreciate nature,” Lagmay said, citing Ilocos Norte’s erratic weather condition over the past few years requiring farmers to adopt the best technology suited for them.

With the expected prolonged drought in the province, the provincial agriculturist reported that more solar-powered irrigation system projects are expected to be installed in the province’s non-irrigated farmlands to promote food security.

Farmer-engineer John Lei Ganiron of Ben-agan, Batac City said the solar-powered irrigation system is a worthy investment for farmers.

“When there is water. We can plant anything,” he said. (Leilanie Adriano, PNA)