The Philippines and CIAT build up agricultural communities’ resilience to climate change
By 2050, climate change and variability could cost the Philippine economy more than US$500 million a year. Indeed, growing water and heat stress, accrued incidence of pests and diseases, and shifts in crop suitability are among the factors expected to bring crop yields down. This will make the Philippines even more dependent on imports of staple foods such as rice, coffee, vegetables, and pork. As a response to these challenges, the Philippine Department of Agriculture launched in 2013 the Adaptation and Mitigation Initiative in Agriculture (AMIA).
AMIA seeks to increase resilience of climate risk-prone agricultural communities by scaling up agricultural practices that are proven to sustainably enhance productivity. The initiative is informed by a climate-smart agriculture (CSA) country profile published by CIAT and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) in 2017. The profile provides an overview of the likely impacts of climate change on agriculture in the Philippines, analyzes the country’s capacity to respond, and reviews existing climate-smart practices. The CSA profile also provides recommendations for investment priorities for each subnational region. In support of the initiative, CIAT helped perform a climate-risk vulnerability assessment for 10 out of the country’s 17 regions in order to identify which areas in each region are most at risk. The level of vulnerability is determined by a combination of a region’s exposure to climate variations, crop sensitivity to temperature and precipitation changes, and capacity to adapt to climate variability and change.
“We have used the tools made available by CIAT, which is very important in identifying the most vulnerable communities and prioritizing where we put our limited government resources,” says Alicia Ilaga, then Director of the Department of Agriculture Systems-wide Climate Change Office (DA-SWCCO).
Areas particularly vulnerable to climate risks have been identified in each of the ten regions. The municipality of Pontevedra in the province of Negros Occidental in Central Philippines is one such area, with high level of exposure to climate-related hazards such as flooding, rain-induced landslides, storm surges, typhoons, and drought. Farmers in Negros Occidental already complain of decreasing rice and maize yields – the province’s second and third most important crops, after sugarcane – despite increasing fertilizer use. This was not surprising. The Philippine CSA profile mentions that, throughout the country, intensive cultivation has resulted in land degradation characterized by erosion and nutrient depletion.
According to a cost-benefit analysis of CSA practices performed by the Visayas State University and CIAT, a shift to organic farming and from direct seeding to transplanting of rice would be a worthwhile investment from an economic, social, and environmental standpoint. The practice is poised to generate nearly US$200,000 worth of incremental benefits over ten years on a 480-hectare pilot site. Some farmers in the province have been practicing organic farming to regain soil health and increase productivity. One of them is Delia Edianel, who has been cultivating organic rice and using drought-tolerant varieties for five years. While yields in her first season using organic fertilizer were dismal, she has since learned more about organic farming, and now gets more than she ever did when she was using chemical fertilizers.
Edianel has learned how to prepare her own fish amino acid by combining fish and molasses to use as fertilizer.
Through AMIA, the government envisions making available a comprehensive suite of support services, including climate information, finance and insurance, climate-resilient infrastructure and technologies and practices, to the Philippine agri-fishery sector. But while climate-resilient practices are already being adopted by some small-scale farmers like Delia, uptake is still low due to a variety of reasons. These include low availability of and limited access to improved seed, insufficient financial resources to cover investment costs, and weak extension services. The next step, according to Ilaga is to establish ‘AMIA villages,’ or model climate-resilient communities. “What we want to do is to replicate this in all parts of the country,” she says. “CIAT can really help us in packaging proposals that would allow us to access external sources of financing, technology, and capacity building to implement climate change adaptation across the Philippines.”
Photos: Madelline Romero, CIAT