Isabela province is the second largest province by area in the Philippines after Palawan and the largest province in Luzon Island at 1.24M ha. It is also the top corn producer in the country peaking its production in 2012 at 1,049,954 metric tons. The province is also the second ranked rice producer of the Philippines after Nueva Ecija making it probably the top province in agricultural production in the Philippines.
As the LUCID project’s primary research focus is to better understand corn cultivation and its impacts on communities and the landscape in the Philippine uplands, Isabela province is a key area of focus. ESSC’s Andres Ignacio, South Coordinator of the LUCID project, conducted the project’s first ever field reconnaissance in the area last October 2017. The main purpose of the visit was to establish contacts with government agencies and communities engaged in the corn sector and to gather preliminary data in the province pertaining to corn production at the provincial and community levels.
The Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPA) provided key information regarding corn production at the provincial level as well as important maps that are valuable in delineating municipal and barangay boundaries. This information will help in determining the land cover distribution at the municipal levels as the project pursues a land cover classification of the province using Sentinel 2 satellite imagery.
The OPA assigned Mr. Neptali Dando to accompany Dr. Ignacio in the field as he visits communities. Focus group discussions (FGDs) were conducted in four barangays, two for the Municipality of Tumauini and two for Ilagan City. The barangays in Tumauini town represented corn lands in the plains, while the Ilagan communities represented upland corn areas.
From an initial standpoint, the situation of the corn farmers in the communities visited are very similar to the other LUCID project sites in that it is not possible for small farmers to plant corn without proper financing due to the highly restrictive costs of the proprietary seeds as well as the required inputs in the form of herbicides and fertilizers. What is different in Isabela is that corn is planted in the plains as well as the uplands, something not common in Iloilo and Bukidnon. Lower interest rates in Isabela are balanced out by the fact that default payments after harvest continue to accrue interest, while in Bukidnon and mostly in Iloilo, interest on balance of payments freeze after the planting cycle of four months.