DAVAO CITY, Philippines—Hungry rodents descended on at least eight outlying villages here and devoured hundreds of hectares of agricultural crops, including cassava, on which most indigenous people rely for their day to day survival, the city agriculture office reported Friday, February 18, 2011.
Leo Avila, head of the city’s agriculture office, said the infestation, which started at the height of the heavy rains that spawned flooding last month, has prompted the city council to declare a state of calamity in these villages in Paquibato district.
The initial damage report, Avila said, showed that the rats also gobbled up other crops such as corn, cacao, coffee and rice and damaged coconut trees.
He said the extent of the damage was still being ascertained as infestation continued in some areas. But as of this week, the rodents have already damaged some 1,391 hectares of crops.
Avila said the infested area was about 60 percent of the 2,330 total area devoted to agriculture in Paquibato district.
He said farmers dependent on cassava and other crops for their daily sustenance have moved to the city proper to find means of feeding their families.
Avila could not say, however, exactly how many of the estimated 4,000 affected families had evacuated due to lack of food.
“The aforementioned infestation brings restlessness and hopelessness to farmers, hence a lot of them decided to stay in the central areas of the city to ask for donations or perform unfamiliar chores, which will surely endanger their life considering they are not familiar with the city’s lifestyle,” a statement issued by village officials, said.
Avila said even before the village officials issued the statement, Mayor Sara Duterte had already asked the city council to declare Paquibato under the state of calamity.
He said the city social welfare office takes charge of delivering assistance to affected families while the city agriculture office has started taking measures to control the rodents.
Avila said among the moves they have taken is the use of poison and traps.
“We will do everything to help the farmers, since they rely so much on their crops,” Avila said.
Avila said they were still unsure about the upsurge in rat population in Paquibato but added that they suspected it had something to do with changes in the weather.
Richel Zamora, an agriculture technologist who surveyed the area, said even the locals were surprised by this occurrence.
“Rats are nocturnal and will start to hunt for food during night time. But (in Paquibato), even at daytime, the rats in great numbers are seen eating the crops,” Zamora said.
By Dennis Jay Santos