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Manatuto rice fields abandoned for years

Dili Weekly - July 16, 2019

Paulina Quintao – Inspection activities of Parliamentary Commission D (Economy and Development) in Manatuto Municipality recently identified that many rice fields have been abandoned for years, because of insufficient water distribution to the rice fields due to poor conditions of the irrigation infrastructure.

MP Alexandrino Cardoso da Cruz, from Committee D, is concerned with this situation, because the municipality of Manatuto has huge potential for rice production, but lack of irrigation has negatively impacted rice production in this municipality.

He said the Kairui irrigation system is supposed to distribute water to 170 hectares of rice fields, but now almost 100 hectares of rice fields are abandoned, because of the irrigation system is full of sand and sediment, and unable to supply water to all rice fields. He added the Laleia irrigation system supplies water to almost 20 hectares of rice fields, but these are currently abandoned, because a road rehabilitation project blocked the irrigation channels.

He added also that the Domin irrigation system located in Manatuto Vila is full of sediment and sand preventing it from distributing water to the rice fields, causing 600 hectares of rice fields being abandoned since 2004.

"We ask the government to provide an excavator to fix this irrigation problem, particularly to clear the Kairui and Domin irrigation systems by getting rid of the sediment and sand, and to reopen the new Laleia irrigation, so that is can supply water to those rice fields that are currently abandoned," he said at the plenary of the National Parliament.

He also asked the government to quickly process the budget for tractors maintenance and fuel, to support farmers, because they are using their own money to buy fuel.

He added farmers are also requesting pesticides, because some of them have been growing rice, but pests keep destroying their crops.

Meanwhile, the National Director for Agriculture, Horticulture and Extension at the Ministry of Agriculture and Fishery (MAF), Amaro Ximenes, said cultivation areas including active rice fields increased from 2018 to 2019.

He acknowledged that many rice fields are still abandoned, but not only because of irrigation; other factors are also contributing including climate change, lack of workers and other issues.

"The projections for cultivation areas is that they have increased production, but we will see the results of production after the first harvest," he said.

Regarding the blocked irrigation systems, he said the government is making efforts to fix and normalize the irrigation networks that were destroyed by natural disasters but MAF also has its own limitations.

He informed that irrigations that were destroyed by natural disasters including the Webaba and Karau Ulun irrigation systems in Same, and the irrigation system in Baucau that supplies water to rice fields in Samalari, Buibau, Buruma and Gariwai have already been fixed.

Source: http://www.thediliweekly.com/en/news/17168-manatuto-rice-fields-abandoned-for-years