HomeFeaturesIN PHOTOS: A thirsty struggle | Plight of tobacco farmers in northern...

IN PHOTOS: A thirsty struggle | Plight of tobacco farmers in northern Philippines

To combat the persistent issue of water scarcity, a group of farmers in Bulbulala village in Pinili town, Ilocos Norte province in the northern Philippines have devised an innovative approach.

Led by Tatay Marino Estabillo, these farmers have found a creative solution to water their crops despite the challenges posed by the El Niño phenomenon, which is expected to affect the country in the first quarter of 2024.

The scarcity of water has long been a burden for the local tobacco farmers, whose livelihoods depend on successful cultivation.



The lack of sufficient water supply adversely affects various crops, including tobacco, leading to decreased yields and financial hardships for the farmers.

In Bulbulala village, farmers have ingeniously connected a large hose directly to a water pump or “poso” to irrigate their fields.

This makeshift irrigation system provides a lifeline for the crops, ensuring their survival during the dry season.

Expressing his hope for a more sustainable future, Tatay Marino emphasized, “Dakkel a tulong no adda irigasionmi ditoy” (It would be a significant help if we had irrigation here). 

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The local farmers believe that establishing a reliable water irrigation system is crucial to securing a brighter future not only for their families but for the entire country.

Text and photos by Andreana Chavez

This photo story was produced as part of the 15th Professional Photojournalism and Documentary Photograph Workshop organized by the Photojournalists Center of the Philippines (PCP) in Laoag City in Ilocos Norte on November 22 to 26, 2023. Chavez was one of the two PCP Gene Boyd Lumawag workshop grant recipients.

Glistening like liquid diamonds, the droplets of water gracefully cascade from the hose, bestowing life and vitality upon the thirsty crops.
Amidst a relentless drought, a tobacco farmer pours water onto the parched soil in a desperate bid to nourish their crops and safeguard their livelihoods.
Tatay Marino Estabillo leads farmers as they diligently water crops with a large hose.
Local water source in Bulbulala. The meager water supply is simply not enough to meet the needs of the community, especially during the dry season.
Children often assist farmers in fetching water for their daily agricultural activities.
As for Marino Estabillo, standing in his tobacco field, his face conveys years of hard work and determination.
Tobacco field in Bulbulala during the dry season. The soil is cracked and dry, and the tobacco plants appear withered and struggling to survive.
With meticulous care, farmers follow the age-old tradition of flattening their tobacco leaves before delicately arranging them within the furnace, commencing the crucial process of drying.
A vibrant and flourishing tobacco in Bulbulala. The plants are healthy, showcasing the fruits of the farmers’ hard work and the positive impact of their efforts.
Standing resolutely outside his tobacco furnace, Tatay Mariano exudes his mastery of the art of tobacco drying.

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