Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The heart of Mindanao needs hydrological surgery

The wrath of Storm Sendong unravels the naked truth about the serious consequences of improper land use practices of the "Heart of Mindanao". For this article, I referred the "Heart of Mindanao" as the uplands that encompasses the whole province of Bukidnon, northern parts of North Cotabato and the eastern portions of Lanao del Sur. Recent hydrological dynamics (flooding, etc.) that affects the provinces of Maguindanao and the cities of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro is a reflection of the current land use practices within this heart of Mindanao.

Hydrologically speaking, the most ideal land use is that of closed forest stands represented by dark green colors in Figure 1. Unfortunately, only the northeastern part of Bukidnon and the eastern part of Lanao del Sur (as of 2003) have closed forest covers. What I mean of hydrologically ideal situation is the capacity of a certain land cover type to retain or delay runoff caused by rains. Once these closed forest stands are disturbed its retention capacity is diminished significantly (in the order of 30 to 50%). These are the areas represented by light green or the open forest stands in Figure 1. Even reforestation cannot revert the hydrological capacity back to its original capacity. Virgin forest once lost has no hope for recovery. Closed forests have an ecosystem structure perfected through centuries of evolution. The hydrological capacity is not only about trees but also include the species assembly underneath the canopy. Thus, reforestation is better if done in such a way that shrubs, grasses, bushes are included in the program not just trees. In biosystems engineering, we call it biomimicry.

Similar in hydrological capacity to open forest is the wooded grasslands represented by the peach color. Though not as effective as the closed forest, this land cover type is better than the cultivated annual crops cover represented by yellow colors. It is worthy to note that wooded grasslands, closed and open forests in the eastern portion of Bukidnon have made the hydrology of Davao river stable and tamer. But once the agricultural activities in the Cabanglasan and San Fernando in Bukidnon intensifies, it will be a nightmare for Davao City. I heard that a road is being constructed in the areas that would connect Bukidnon with Davao del Norte. This would mean intensified economic activities in this Bukidnon territory. And if Davao City will open their northern frontier to economic activities (conventional agriculture, etc.), it would be a disaster waiting to happen.

The prevalence of annual crops (yellow areas) has disabled ecosystem services that Bukidnon provides in terms of hydrological regulation (flood delay, and water during drought). This makes the receiving provinces of North Cotabato, Maguindanao and CDO at the mercy of Bukidnon waters (from different watersheds!). This is demonstrated by the perennial problem of flooding in Maguindanao and Cotabato City. Unfortunately, we tried to solve Cotabato floods by controlling the water lilies. Personally, I believe it is better to start seriously looking at the land use practices in the heart of Mindanao. The erratic nature of weather patterns needs adaptive interventions that transcends boundaries and academic disciplines.

Here are some weak points, I believe we need to address:

1) We need to review the different land use plans of the municipalities (CLUP). Does it conform to the whole river basin hydrodynamics? Does the projected land use take into account the possible consequences it may impose on our hydrology? Several accounts would point to CLUPs being a "copy and paste" plans. This is where the LGUs need to craft their respective land use plans that conforms with the ecological dynamics beyond their territorial limits.

2) There is a need to delienate the final limits of forest lands and those alienable and disposable. It can be gleaned in Figure 1 that a lot of forestlands were already cultivated. For example, in Bukidnon, 491,579 hectares were classified as forestlands but only about 170,000 hectares are with forest covers with over 100,000 hectares already open. 

3) DENR, DAR, and DA should work hand in hand in developing upland agriculture that focusses on land and water conservation. DA and DAR refuse to work on forestlands eventhough agricultural activities are evident simply because it is within the domain of DENR. DENR are "tree - oriented" and may be not technically conversant with appropriate agricultural technologies that farmers need. On the other hand, agricultural professional are "plantation-oriented" and may not be technically equipped in dealing with smallholder sloping agriculture. If only DENR, DAR, and DA creates a liason office that deals with rigors of upland and sloping agriculture or agroforestry. I think it is no longer possible to reforest the whole 491,579 forestlands but agricultural and environmental agencies can work together in developing economic activities in the uplands that can maintain vital ecosystem water resources services.

4) Built up areas (red colors) should be redesigned that considers storm water regulation. Our preference to pavements in real property development makes a concrete jungle that has the worst hydrological capacity. This is demonstrated by Typhoon Ondoy. Rainwater harvesting and stormwater retention facilities can be embedded in urban structures. 

5) Enforce forestry laws to maintain the integrity of the last remaining closed forest. I guess a total log ban is in proper. A log ban for both legal and illegal logging of natural forests. In order to supply our timber needs, tree planting should be encouraged in non-critical parts of the watersheds.

6) Downstream provinces and cities need to reconsider their "dikes and dams" mentality as flood control. Engineering designs are usually based on hydrological analysis. Unfortunately, some of our historical data (if there is such data existing for specific locality) do not capture uncertainties brought about by climate change and the faster land use transitions brought by human activities upstreams. And so our usual dam and dikes solution may not work in the long run. There should be plan B - and that is adaptation and mitigation. What I learned from Dutch water engineering is that water is difficult to control and so they make do of floating structures (bridges, houses, etc.). Instead of relying much on dikes, they make more "room for rivers" and "space for waters". They keep on studying their situation and propose solutions beyond engineering realms.       

There is a need to rehabilitate our river basins. Let the heart of Mindanao pump life again. A transboundary natural resources management is imperative that addresses the biophysical and social dynamics of the river basins. A participative and adaptive mechanism that connects stakeholders from different spatial scales and technical backgrounds. Let us remember that water knows no boundary.

Monday, December 19, 2011

flashfloods and weather forecasting

After Typhoon Sendong, rains may now be viewed as agents of disasters. But knowing rainfall forecast can actually save us from harm. We need only to know better our surroundings. This blog tries to explain how we should look at weather forecast with the end in view of better assessing risk vulnerability of our respective communities. I am emphasizing that we should not rely heavily on storm signals because they are all based on winds (please read switching from wind to rain). We should start listening to rainfall forecast and make sense of it. Later, we will use the Iligan case for illustration purposes.

So how rainfall forecast can save you? If you live near the river or at the footslopes of a mountain, you need to listen to the following information:


Our common mistake is we only focus on the eye of a typhoon and don't bother about how wide is the rain cloud system. More often we associate typhoon signal as the strength of rain. Which is why a lot of us would wonder why certain areas have signals in place but there are no rains. We sometimes ridicule PAGASA about this. But actually PAGASA based their warnings on wind strength. That is why we need to know the information about the rain and the cloud system behavior.

So here we are. Rainfall intensity gives us idea on how heavy is the rain. Usually it is expressed in mm/hr. So that if rain pours at 25 mm/hr for 8 hrs, then we expect to have received 200 mm. By the looks of it, you may say 200 mm or 20 cm is not that deep, right? About 2/3 of your child's ruler. But let us reserve that info later.

For Sendong, it was projected to have 10 to 25 mm/hr of intense rain. How do we predict the duration of the rain? This is where the swath of clouds come in. Usually, you can estimate the diameter by looking at the satellite imagery (usually red in color) or Kuya Kim will sometimes tell you this. For example, Sendong has been predicted to have a cloud diameter (swath) of 400 km. We should know also the speed of its movement. PAGASA pegged it at 24 km/hr. From here, we will compute how long will it take for a cloud system to pass a particular place from end to end. For Sendong, it would be 400 km / (24 km/hr) =  16.67 say 16 hrs of continous rain. If we expect 10 to 25 mm/hr for 16 hrs, the expected rain would be in the range of 160 mm to 400 mm. That means any particular place passed by Sendong potentially can receive 160 to 400 mm of rainfall depth. If I am not mistaken, CDO received 180 mm.

So what do we do with this 160 to 400 mm? This is were the concept of hydrological unit would come into play. Always remember that a certain place will respond differently given a certain estimated volume. This is where the role of PAGASA ends and where the community's vigilance begun. Let us use Iligan City as our case. I use Google Earth to render a 3D visualization.

The satellite image above was captured in July 2009. At first glance, Iligan is so pristine with all the lush green and mountains around it. These mountains in fact can shield the city from strong winds cause by typhoons. But beyond this imposing mountains lies a big container of water or watershed. Iligan was not hit by the winds, it was hit by waters that rushed in from the mountains. Now let me give you a tour what lies behind this Iligan beauty.

As you can see above, there are two watershed that drains to Iligan. One that has an area of approximately 65,000 hectares and one with around 7,800 hectares (estimated only through GE Path). The bigger watershed drains water from as far as Talakag in Bukidnon and Kapai and Tagoloan II in Lanao del Sur. The smaller watershed drains partly the towns of Tagoloan, Baloi, and Pantaran in Lanao del Norte. All of these watersheds drains to an area approximately 1,500 hectares within Iligan proper. It is like having two large buckets pouring their contents to a very small one.

Suppose 160 mm poured over these watersheds, we can use this to compute the flooding volume. We will use 160 mm because we do not know the exact observation there. Anyway, if others have the exact figure from any of the rain gauges in the city or on its watershed they can just follow the procedure herein and compute for themselves a precise figure.

Expected flooding volume = 160 mm (65,000 ha + 7,800 ha) = 0.16 m (728,000,000 m2)
that would be 116,480,000 m3 potential water volume. But of course, not all of these water will rush in. Since the watershed looks intact with lush forest, let us say only 50% (higher if without forest cover) of these waters flows into Iligan. So that would be around 58,240,000 m3. What does this figure mean for the Iliganos? Let us relate that to their low lying area (potential floodplains) which is around 1,500 hectares. Let us divide 58,240,000 m3 with 1,500 hectares: 58,240,000 m3/ 15,000,000 m2 = 3.88 m. This can be the estimated flood height. Enough to pile up three cars over each other. In short, if 160 mm of rain pours over their watersheds, Iliganos expects 3.88 m of floods (If the rainfall was 80 mm, then expected floods would be 1.94 m). Then the next to do is to stay away from the areas that can be inundated (can be reached by possible flood level). 

The foregoing discussion illustrates how rainfall forecast can be used to project potential flood level without sophisticated flood warning system. We deviate from the usual hydrological computation and use only the basic principle. This is the predicament of limited hydrological data in an area which is by the way expensive to conduct as well. While there are flood hazard maps in the area, these are without meaning in disaster preparedness unless linked with rainfall forecast. This heuristic approach is good for areas without the resources to buy flood warning systems. This is a crude way of localizing weather forecasts, something that makes sense in our localities.  

The question is how about your area? Do you have any clue what would happen if you expect 160 mm rainfall? Communities should also be aware of their sorroundings. How large is the watershed area? What is the shape of the river channel? Is its mouth constricted (similar to downspout) like that of Iligan? Sometimes, it pays to listen to the rhythm of the falling rain.   

(The figures above are estimates and is meant for discussion puposes only. Please also read: topography of flashfloods and typhoon warnings: switching from wind to rain)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

topography of flashfloods

Amidst these news of flash floods, I explored the topography of the flooding sites namely that of Cagayan de Oro (CDO) after Typhoon Sendong (December 2011) and that of Davao City (last July 2011). I used 3D rendition via Google earth to see what is the current land use and topography. I do not have an exact knowledge about the actual land use but satellite imagery more or less can suggest actual land use. This however need to be verified on the ground. I do not know the names of the places so I just tag them as points A, B, C, D, etc.

Here are some screenshots for Cagayan de Oro City:

The wide swath of the typhoon can render runoff from points A, B, and D going to the vicinity of C which is approximately the position of Cagayan de Oro City.

I am not so sure if this is the flooded area, but based on videos on the internet, the features resembled that of the actual flooded area. Well, this rendition is just for discussion purposes on how land use can affect hydrology and how urban planning can render populace vulnerable to risk. Take for example this image above, it shows the topography like a trough. Unfortunately, most of the residences are within this trough.

Going back to our larger picture, we can actually see two watershed draining to the vicinity of C. We added point E because it seems D have its own pathway but still in the vicinity of C. Here, we illustrated that floodwaters coming from A and B are essentially choked at C (like a trough) and eventually flush out water (illustrated as a three pronged arrow). Floodwaters from D would eventually settle on the E floodplains. By the looks of it, it may not be as destructive as in point C.

So we have here (see image above) a situation that a large watershed drains to a small floodplains (marked CDO).

It is wide that point A to C is approximately 50 km and B to C is around 20 km. By the looks of it point A is already in Bukidnon.

Examining satellite images, we can see that land uses can be agricultural fields in point A and B. Looking closer at point A, it can be gleaned that it is of intensive agricultural land use as evidenced by its brown patches. That is also true with slopes at point D. Although at point D, we cannot discount possible logging activities there due the presence of forest patches. What is crucial here is to know (ground truthing) the actual land use activities on point A and B. Agricultural activities that need to be reviewed are vegetable and corn farming - considered to be erosive agricultural land practices. Are agricultural activities in those areas employ some sort of a soil and water conservation to arrest runoff?  If farmers do not consider this, dwellers in C will be forever at the mercy of floods. This large watershed may encompass several municipalities in Misamis Oriental and Bukidnon. Negotiating proper land use to protect CDO might be an uphill struggle but worth the try.

Zooming in on C, you will find several property development. Locally, if these subdivisions are constructed in such a way that drainage connects to the main river, it will add to the problem. This is particularly true if streets are paved and residences lawns are paved as well. I suggest that they employ some sort of water retention facilities (in agricultural engineering we called it bioretention) to contain storm water to at least delay the runoff towards to the river. Or design houses with rainwater harvesting or green roofs. For point C, they have no choice but to start building houses with second floor to adapt to the situation. Our forefathers are smarter than us. They built houses on stilts!

More or less, the Davao City incident has some pecularities with CDO case:

But unlike CDO, the Davao flashflood was triggered by localized rainfall on a smaller watershed. But the same mechanism is still in place and that is the presence of a "choked point". Looking at satellite imagery, the watershed were possibly plantation crops (banana, fruit trees). Unlike that of CDO, this is less erosive provided planted properly. What I mean by planted properly is that it should consider the contour and slope. But looking closely (please try Google Earth) some of this plantation crops was planted along straight lines. In this case, runoff is still high.

I could not discount the possibility of the contribution of property development or quarrying on top of the Matina floodplains. But I guess the biggest contribution comes from the agricultural plains in the north. A larger watershed is needed to impound such large volume of water to flush the floodplains. I mean flush not just flash.

I just hope that this will help explain some phenomena we experience nowadays. Hope that policy-makers will consider hydrology in crafting their respective land use plans. Again, these illustrations are meant for discussion purposes. We still need to verify on the ground the actual land use before we could definitely give conclusions.

Please read also: using rainfall to save yourself from floods and typhoon warnings: switching from wind to rain . If you think this is helpful, you are free to share.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

typhoon warnings: switching from wind to rain

I was awed with the immense damage Typhoon Sendong brought to the northern cities of Mindanao the past few days. Immediately, everybody point their fingers to anybody they can put their blame on. Others say PAGASA did not warn us enough. Others say the local government did not prepared enough for the impending disaster. Others point to victims who did not heed the authorities' advice. Others cast their blame on illegal (how about the legal?) loggers who wantonly denude our forests.

Is PAGASA really at fault? In fairness to them, I have seen several press releases with a warning of an impending typhoon. They even quick to raise typhoon signals even before the typhoon's landfall. So are we going to blame the local authorities? I am not so sure either. Preparedness and response are usually adapted based on experience. Unfortunately, experience about typhoon is rare in Mindanao.

But let us turn our discussion to those who are in Luzon and Visayas. Is storm signal no. 1 or 2 enough to cause massive pre-emptive evacuation? We need to accept the fact that in the Philippines, we are only concerned when a Typhoon reached a signal 3 or 4 or 5. I still remember when Typhoon Juan was approaching Luzon last year. People are glued to their radio and TV sets trying to know where the typhoon was. But let us admit that when it is on signal level 1 or 2, we let our guards down. In fact, it is only upon Signal 3 that classes at collegiate level are suspended or offices are closed. Meaning, we really don't see a tragedy coming at Typhoon Signal 2. We don't have the sense of urgency when a typhoon is tagged at the lower level. As I have said, we remained complacent and we let our guards down. Much more to areas which have not experienced severe typhoons. 

And this is where disaster strikes! Remember Ondoy? It was just Typhoon signal no. 2. This time Typhoon Sendong. Who would ever think that a typhoon with signal no. 2 can cause widespread havoc to an entire region with casualties and flashfloods unimaginable even in a typhoon signal no. 3?

Typhoon signals nowadays are so vague and misleading. The results are different. Few typhoons skirted Northern Mindanao in the past but did not cause damage at a magnitude similar to Sendong. There are typhoon signal 2 that can cause flooding while others do not. It gives us an impression that there are different types of typhoon signal no. 2. Nowadays, it is difficult to decipher when a particular typhoon signal can be destructive or not. And so you will hear several comments that "I thought it was just Signal no. 2?" 

What policy-makers failed to see is that our warning messages are not enough to warn. Can you warn somebody about flooding with signals derived from winds? Warning should be about the amount of rain. Ondoy was just storm signal no. 2 but it poured rain even greater than the usual typhoon signal no. 4. After Ondoy, Doppler radars were installed to predict rainfall volume even if the typhoon is still on the ocean. So we now have the capacity to project possible rainfall volume even before its landfall. But even knowing the main cause and installing the latest gadget, we still stick to our old ways of giving warnings. We still give warnings based on the strength of winds.  We need to redefine our warning classification that is based on the real culprit: RAINFALL INTENSITY. After all, flooding and landslide is not caused by winds.

I proposed a warning signal classification based on RAINFALL INTENSITY.  For example if a typhoon is coming, PAGASA can issue a typhoon signal and at the same time issue a rainfall signal. In this way a typhoon can have signal of 2 but with rain signal of 4 (super heavy rains). This means that we expect a moderate or strong winds but very heavy rains. So communities need to prepare even with low storm signal. I understand that PAGASA also included in their bulletin the expected rainfall volume but it has been de-emphasize and overshadowed by the strength of the winds. We need to emphasize rainfall intensity similar to the treatment we gave to wind strength. By having a separate rain warning, PAGASA can issue Rain Signal Levels even for mere LPAs.  Mind you, we have flooding episodes even without typhoons.

In Mindanao where typhoons seldom passed, rainfall intensity signal is more meaningful and definite than a storm signal (actually a storm, in hydrology, is about a rainfall event so associating it wind strength already deviate from its meaning). If a rainfall signal is raised, local authorities based on their knowledge of topography and hydrology can decide among themselves if a particular rainfall intensity merits pre-emptive evacuation. I do not see the logic of preparing for flood with information based on winds. When a community is accustomed to rainfall signals, they themselves can decide to evacuate or not. They do not need to compute based on mm/hr which is hidden somewhere inside weather bulletins issued by PAGASA and where only hydrometeorologist could understand. It become their instinct.

Yes, PAGASA and NDRRMC forewarned an approaching typhoon, but did they emphasize that the rains that are coming are at a magnitude that cause floods similar to Ondoy? Mahangin ba sa labas? Kung hindi, bakit kaya bumaha?

Please read: topography of flashfloods. and  using rainfall to save yourself from flooding

Sunday, September 25, 2011


Another field that is emerging of which AEs can go to as a career specialization is the area on Agro-informatics. We shall be using the word "Agroinformatics" to distinguish the use of information technology in the field of agriculture and fisheries. This is relatively a new field and may compete with information and electronics professionals. However, our extensive knowledge of the agricultural systems makes us advantageous

Here are some agroinformatics tracks, an AE can follow:


The Geographic Information System (GIS) is a powerful tool used in natural resource management including agriculture and fisheries. A good number of GIS professionals in the Philippines have AE background. Our extensive knowledge in land and water management makes us versatile GIS professionals. Through GIS, one can visualize land degradation, water resources, land cover, soil fertility maps, pest spread, etc. It is a dynamic mapping approach that can help in decision making. In addition, GIS can be utilized as a tool in Precision Agriculture particularly if one AE would like to venture in plantation environment. 

Automation, Instrumentation and Control

A lot of our gadgets in the field needs to be automated as well. Through basic electronics, we can transform our rain gauges, hygrothermographs, etc. to gather real time data for a better weather forecasting and hydrological analysis. We can improve our sensors for microclimate control inside greenhouses, aquaculture systems, biosecured animal housing, etc. We can greatly improve our postharvest and production equipment. In this case, mechanization will be implemented in "lighter and intelligent approach".In this case, mechanization will be more of electronics-based and little of ICE-based.


Those who maybe interested in research. A software approach can also be implemented by AEs. We refer to hydrological modelling, climate modelling, crop modelling, etc. An AE have better stance than the mere computer science professional. As I have said, we understand the system better.

Reinforce curriculum

However, in order for our future professionals to be able to be proficient on this areas, we need to review our curriculum. We shall not look at CAD and GIS as a stand alone program but rather let us start integrating these in the every professional subjects as much as possible. We also have the edge if we start using microcontrollers and robotics in the design of postharvest and machineries. With a fast changing IT industry, these technologies will be more cost-efficient in the near future and hopefully more affordable for our farmers.

And we need to be ready before computer and electronics professionals will snatch this away from us.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

World class pinoy AEs

We are compiling herein several Pinoy agricultural engineers who have made a mark on their respective academic careers. Of course, there are other countless pinoy AEs working in other fields, but in the meantime we are presenting herein some academics who make it in the world stage.

ALEXIS T. BELONIO - is a professor at the Central Philippine University in Iloilo City. He made headlines when he was awarded as one of the laureates of the Rolex Awards for Enterprise.

But even with his invention, he did not intend to make money from his patent and made the design public for others to use.

Read more about Engr. Alexis T. Belonio.

DR. ROBERTO S. CLEMENTE - is a professor at the Asian Institute of Technology at Thailand.

He has an extensive work in irrigation and drainage and land and water management with research activities throughout Asia.

Read more about Engr. Roberto Clemente

DR. LOPE TABIL - is a professor of Agricultural and Bioresource Engineering at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada.

The areas of research in which he works and maintains interest include bioprocess engineering, value-added engineering and postharvest handling of crops.

Read more about Engr. Lope Tabil 

DR. RONALDO G. MAGHIRANG - is a professor of biological and agricultural engineering at the Kansas State University in the United States.

Prof. Maghirang is a leading figure in education and research on agricultural air quality. His expertise include structures and environment, bioaerosols among others.

Read more about Engr. Ronaldo G. Maghirang

DR. BERNARDO Z. PREDICALA - is an adjunct professor at the Agricultural and Bioresource Engineering at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada while working as a Research Scientist at the Prairie Swine Centre Inc.

Read more about Engr. Predicala

DR. SERGIO CAPAREDA - is an associate professor of biological and agricultural engineering at the Texas A&M University in the United States. His research include: Fluidized bed pyrolysis and gasification of biomass; biofuels and biopower production including biomass characterization; GHG and RVOC emissions measurements; engine dynamometer testing; process design and development. Read more about Engr. Sergio Capareda.

DR. MANUEL REYES - is an associate professor of natural resources and environmental design at the North Carolina State A&T University in the United States.

His work mainly focused on hydrology, soil and water conservation engineering, and earth systems engineering.

Read more about Dr. Manuel Reyes

delos Reyes

DR. FRANCIS DELOS REYES III - is an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at the North Carolina State University in the United States.

He is among the pioneer academic working on the interface of microbial ecology and environmental engineering.

Read more about Dr. Francis delos Reyes III

Monday, September 5, 2011

Do it the biological way

By this time, you will have probably discerned my utter bias in developing our competencies in areas which we do not have much competition and I felt that we are strong. You may probably be aware my reservation in confronting other engineers in areas which I believe we have thematic overlap and my desire to work around this competition for own advantage.

Let me discuss the global evolution of agricultural engineering into a much wider biological systems engineering. For some, it is quite alarming. Does this mean we need to learn new approaches, tools, skills and competencies in order to cope with these new trends?

Sadly (for some), yes. But these new areas are where the paths of least resistance are. Instead of devoting our energy and effort in equipping ourselves in areas where we have competition, why don't we strengthen our ranks to "new areas"? Our current curriculum reflects these trends to a certain degree but sometimes are received by college professors in varying degrees of enthusiasm leading to half-baked lectures. The board exam also did not reflect these trends and are still locked in traditional agricultural engineering major subjects. So why professors spend time in lecturing these new trends when at the end of the day, it will not be included in the board exams? I mean there is a lot potential in learning these new areas particularly for work but since the ultimate measure of performance is the board exam, colleges shy away from these areas.

Here are few areas and opportunity scenarios that an agricultural engineer can do and got paid for it:

1) Bioenergy and biomass engineering- this is an area where we will harness the energy biological products. An AE can design small-scale portable biogas digester that really works! An agricultural engineer can also work with the Solid Waste Management (SWM) programs in the LGUs specializing in compost engineering (designing the right compost recipe).
2) Soil bioengineering - we have great potential in this area. Ever heard of the geotextile coco fibers for erosion control? Agricultural engineers are in the forefront of this but oftentimes are not included in the curriculum package in our soil and water conservation engineering. But this technology is emerging in the Philippines. If only we could popularized this as an AE practice.
3) Urban agriculture support - Here we talk about hydroponics and pot growing. But do we have this in a course? like designing turnkey systems for installations? Congressmen are aware of this. They even purchase fertilizers for urban areas. I must presume these are for urban agriculture projects. We can ask Jocjoc
4) Aquacultural engineering - aside from fishpond design, one can extend the urban agricultural system and turn it into aquaponics systems.
5) Microclimate control - we are the engineering profession who has knowledge in physiology and environmental requirements of both plants and animals. We can design or at least install turnkey systems for greenhouses, biosecured animal production systems.

These are some of the biosystems engineering areas that one AE can work on and can be an entrepreneur. Of course there are other areas (e.g. ecological engineering, biosensors, food processing, etc). which might still on the infancy stage in so far as Philippine arena is concerned.

The few examples I have outlined above can be a venue for income of an entrepreneurial AE. However, the motivation is not there since they are not included in the mainstream major subjects or in the exam. An immediate concern of an AE student is to pass the board. If these potential areas are not included or given less emphasis, why bother learning them.

For me both the Board and the colleges should seriously look at these potential areas.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

AE bilang development managers

Isang aspeto na hindi gaanong binibigyang pansin ng tumataguyod ng ating propesyon ang karampatang kakayahan at pagkadalubhasa ng mga nakapagtapos ng AE sa aspetong development management. Kung ating titingnan sa batas, hindi ito kabilang sa mga tinaguring practice of agricultural engineering.

Pero lingid sa ating lahat, maraming mga planning and development offices (PDOs), NGOs at international agencies ang kumukuha sa serbisyo ng ating mga bayaws. Ang habol ng mga ahensiyang ito ang kakayahan ng isang AE na magdala ng pagbabago sa mga kumunidad na sineserbisyohan nito. Ang kakayahan ng isang AE na makapag-analyze ng mga sitwasyon at galing nitong makikipagsalamuha ang naging daan na maging sikat ang mga AE sa larangan ng development management (rural development, international aid, instutional development). Malimit hindi nila natutunan sa klase ang mga kakayahang ito. Ngunit sadyang innate na sa pagiging AE ang mga katangiang ito (innate skills). Paminsan-minsan tahimik ang mga bayaws na ito dahil sa wari'y ang tingin nila sa kanilang sarili ay hindi sila tunay na AE.

Ngunit kung pagmasdang mabuti, itong grupo ng mga bayaws na ito ay tunay din na AE dahil sa nagseserbisyo sila sa mga magsasaka at maralita. Sila ang mga rural engineers. Nagpaplano, nagdedesign ng mga estratehiya para mapalago ang mga buhay maralita. Hindi conventional na engineer pero sila ang new breed of engineers.

Akin pong iminungkahi na ilakip sa practice ng agricultural engineering ang rural engineering at development management para mabigyang pugay ang nagtratrabaho sa larangang ito at maging proud sila bilang AE. Kung makilala ang development management (rural engineering) bilang isang lehitimong AE practice, alam nating sa pamamagitan nito, maraming makikinabang na magsasaka at mga bayaw na rin sa hinaharap.  

Sa anino ng civil engineering

Nasambit ko sa unang tala na linangin natin ang ating mga kakayahan na kung saan may lamang tayo o di kaya wala masyado tayong kompetensiya sa ibang disiplinang pang-inhenyero. Opinyon ko lang po ang mga ito at base sa naobserba ko mula ng ako ay naging AE. Uunahin natin ang kalagayan natin sa ilalim ng anino ng civil engineering

Isa sa mga naging usapin ay ang pagpapalabas ng PAES na naipasok sa National Building Code (di ako sigurado kung tapos na ito). Ang papalabas ng PAES ay nagbigay ng saya sa mga bayaws. Yehey makasign at seal na kami!!! Pero medyo tahimik pa rin ngayon. Lalong tumahimik ng nagkaroon na di umano'y agreement ang mga boards ng civil and agricultural engineering sa "let the market decide". Sa ganitong kasunduan, tagilid tayo. We are up against 100k CE professionals at saka hindi pa nga tayo kilala ng "market" eh. Aaminin man natin o hindi talagang mahirap makaiwas sa anino ng CE sa ganitong kalagayan.

Ang aking suhestiyon ay ang pag-renegotiate sa CE board ang mga maliit na aspetong meron tayong lamang at ang "let market decide" ay sa mga aspetong alam natin na magaling din sila (assuming na kasingaling natin sila).

Anong aspeto ang dapat ang ilagay sa "let market decide" or ibigay sa CE ng tuluyan:

1) Structural design ng farm buildings
2) Structural design ng fixed structures for irrigation (dams, hydraulic structures)
3) Farm to market roads engineering design 

Ngunit dapat may pirma dapat sa mga aspetong ito:

1) Functional design ng farm buildings. Saan ilagay ang mga parts ng buildings, asan ang pinto, gaano kataas ang ceiling, ano klaseng materials ang gamitin. Pwede natin ibigay ang kontrata sa CE pero dapat merong tayong pirma sa functional aspect nito. Sa tingin ko papayag ang mga CE nito kagaya ng pagpayag nila sa mga EE in terms of electrical works.
2) Sa mga buildings na may biosecurity at environmental control aspects. Sa tingin ko tayo lang ang may kakayahang ipaghalo ang thermodynamics, heat transfer at structural requirements. Mahina ang CE sa thermo at heat transfer eh. As I have said, pwede mo ibigay ang overall na kontrata pero may pirma pa rin tayo sa "environment control". (Note iba ang ibig sabihin sa "environmental control engineering" sa "environmental engineering".)
3) Sa irrigation naman, pwede na nating ibigay ang dam at ang mga concrete canals. Pero dapat may pirma tayo sa systems design. Kung saan ilagay ang intake and canal. Para mamangha ang ating mga CE counterparts, gamitan natin ng crop modelling at agrometeorology para sa water management at crop water requirements. Pwede mo pa isali ang institutional development sa gawain natin.
4) waste management systems - sa tingin ko mas familiar tayo dito (biogas, etc) at hindi malakas and mga CE dito.

Dahil mahina ang CE sa mga aspetong sinasabi ko, dito tayo magpapalakas. Ang mga college subjects natin ay dapat maemphasize ito. Ang board exam ay dapat ganito rin. Pero sa panahon ng kami ay kumuha ng board walang lumabas sa mga aspetong binabanggit ko. For example, ang agriwaste ay maswerte na kung may 2 tanong na lumalabas. Malimit lumalabas ang mga aspetong malakas din ang CE. In fact, kung gamitin mo ang CE reviewer sa hydraulics at structures baka may lumabas pa he he.

Huwag muna nating habulin ang kabubuang farm structures and irrigation. We will collaborate first until we are comfortable in structural design. Aaminin man natin o hindi, mahina pa tayo sa aspetong ito.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Sino nga ba ang kliyente natin?

Madali ang sagot.

Magsasaka at mangingisda. Importante ang sagot na ito kung nais nating maintindihan ang kahalagahan ng propesyon natin. Sino nga ba ang mga magsasaka at mangingisda sa lipunang Pilipino? Ano ang kasalukuyang estado ng pamumuhay ng mga ito? Ang mga kasagutan sa mga tanong na iyan ay ang sagot kung asan at ano din ang estado ng propesyon natin.

Ito rin ang kasagutan kung bakit nanlulumo tayo at bakit ang ibang agricultural engineer sa ibang bansa ay malago kumpara sa ibang propesyon. Noong ako napagawi sa Estados Unidos laki ang gulat ko na ang mga agricultural engineer ay isa sa mga may malaki ang sahod. Kahit sa Europa, ang isang agricultural engineer ay kilalang kilala. Ngunit bakit nga ba di tayo kilala dito sa Pinas?

Ang sagot ay isang tanong: Sino nga ba ang kliyente natin? Sa US, ang mga mayayaman na tao ay yaong tinaguriang mga "magsasaka". Dito sa Pilipinas, ang mga magsasaka ay malimit naghihikahos. Isa din yan sa rason kung bakit andito tayo sa sitwasyon ito.

Ang hamon sa atin ngayon ay papaano natin matutulungan ang mga magsasaka para mapalago nila ang kanilang kabuhayan sa pamamagitan ng ating tulong. Kung yayaman ang mga magsasaka, iyan rin ang pagkakataong sisikat tayo. Malaki ang aking paniniwala na sa pamamagitan ng simpleng pagtulong sa mga magsasaka ay lalago sila. Nasubukan ko na yan nang napagawi ako sa Isabela. Naipamahagi ko ang kaalaman ukol sa soil and water management, agrometeorology, nutrient management. Mas naintindihan nila ang kanilang sakahan sa simpleng talakayan sa tabi-tabi. Ang tawag nila sa akin ay enhinyero ng lupa at lahat ng pakasiyaatan ti kuman. Lahat ng ito'y libre.  

Dito natin kailangan ang ibayong pagtutulungan para makilala ang AE. Mga simpleng payo lang sa mga magsasaka at huwag mahiyang sabihin na ikaw ay AE. Mas mainam pa nga kung magkumpol tayo sa mga sektor sa bawat probinsiya at gagawa ng mga caravan na libreng payo sa mga magsasaka.

Huwag muna natin isipin ang kikitain. Sabi ko nga, pag yayaman ang mga magsasaka, tayo rin.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

agricultural or an engineering discipline?

Ayon sa RA 8559, "the practice of agricultural engineering shall refer to the profession requiring the application of the fundamental and known principles of engineering to the peculiar condition and requirements of agriculture as an industry and as a field of science"

Ang ating pagkalito sa ating pagka-inhenyero ay nagsisimula sa eskwela. Ano ba ang agricultural engineering? Isang engineering discipline o isang agricultural discipline? Hindi malinaw sa simula pa lang kung asan tayo lulugar. Kung basehan natin ang tala ng CHED, napapabilang ang AE sa Technical Panel for Agriculture Education kabilang ang veterinarian, forestry, agriculture at fisheries.  Wala naman tayo sa listahan ng Technical Panel of Engineering Education and Architecture.Kung pagbabasehan ito, ang AE ay napabilang sa Agricultural Sciences.

Ngunit marami pa rin ang nagsasabi na tayo ay isang lehitimong engineering discipline kapantay ng ibang traditional na engineering discipline (e,g. civil, electrical, mechanical). Marami sa atin ang naniniwala sa linyang ito: Tayo ay mga engineer at hindi agriculturalist. Oo naman, Engineer nga ang tawag sa atin.

Ngunit kung balikan natin ang mga eskwela. Kukunti lang ang agricultural engineering na napabilang sa isang College of Engineering. Malimit ang BSAE ay napabilang sa isang College of Agriculture. At kung ang isang BSAE ay nasa ilalim ng isang College Engineering, malamang ang pamantasan na ito ay merong agriculture na kurso. Samakatuwid, walang AE kung walang agriculture. Ehemplo nito ang UPLB at UP Diliman.

Sa mamamayang Filipino, hindi nila maihiwalay ang isang agriculturist sa agricultural engineer. At kung igiit natin na tayo ay enhinyero, at matanong kung "ano ang agricultural engineer?" Nahihirapan tayong ipaliwanag sa haba ng litanya na sambitin. Kahit sa ibang engineer, di nila alam ang agricultural engineer maliban na lang kung gradweyt sila sa isang state university na may BSAE.

Sa larangan naman ng trabaho, halos walang kaibahan ang nakukuhang trabaho ng agriculturist at agricultural engineer. Nag-aral pa tayo ng 5 years!

Sa totoo lang kulang tayo ng pagpapakilala sa mga kasamahan natin sa larangang agrikultura (vet, forester, fisheries). Pilit nating sinisiksik ang ating mga sarili sa bandera ng engineering at ini-snub natin ang agriculture. Hanggang ang mga agriculturist ay hindi na tayo kilala. Pero kung mag-apply tayo ng trabaho,  ang Department of Agriculture ang unang pinupunterya!

Sa tingin ko mas mainam na mas bigyan nating pansin ang pag-collaborate sa mga agriculturist, foresters, vets, fishery technologist. Upang sa pakikipag-unayan natin sa kanila, ay mahasa natin ang ating mga sarili sa tunay na problema ng agrikultura. Kusang-loob tayong makikipagtalastasan sa kanila. Upang sa pamamagitan nito, may mas alam na rin sila sa kakayahan natin. Sa bandang huli naman, sila ang kasama natin sa trabaho (baka boss pa!).

Sa paghahabol natin sa buntot ng ibang mga engineer, sa paghahabol na magiging kapantay natin sila, sa pagsusumikap na higitan natin sila, nakalimutan na natin at tayo naman ng mga tagapangasiwa ng industriyang agrikultura. Minsan nga, ibang engineer ang kinukuha nila kasi di na nila tayo kilala.

Monday, August 29, 2011

panahon na

Panahon na sigurong magmuni-muni tayo sa kalalagayan ng ating propesyon. Marami ang may agam-agam sa kahahantungan ng ating mga sarili. May trabaho ba sa huli? Dapat harapin na natin ang katotohonan. May butas ang konseptong "inhenyero agrikultural" sa Pilipinas. Pinipilit nating ipatupad ang ating batas ngunit sa sitwasyon sa ating bansa hindi ito akma. Dapat siguro tingnan natin ang mga proyektong di kayang gawin ng ibang inhinyero at yun ang ating linangin at pasikatin. Mahirap makipagsabayan sa mga aspetong alam nating kaya ding gawin ng iba o di kaya mahigpit ang kompetisyon.