Mission: Establish thousands of resilient agricultural communities

Mission: Establish thousands of resilient agricultural communities

In thirty years, the Philippines may become even more dependent on imports of rice, coffee, vegetables, and pork. This is due in part to decreased crop yields because of increased water and heat stress, increased incidence of pests and diseases, and shifts in crop production suitability, as a result of climate change. Not only that – by 2050 climate change and variability is estimated to cost the Philippine economy approximately PhP 26 billion (>USD 500 million) yearly.


The full Philippine CSA profile can be accessed here.

These are examples of the likely impacts of climate change detailed in the climate-smart agriculture (CSA) country profile, published recently by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) for the Philippine Department of Agriculture.

The profile provides an overview of the likely impacts of climate change on agriculture in the country, and its capacity to respond, as well as detailing existing climate-smart practices. By giving baseline information that could inform planning for future climate change adaptation and mitigation action, the profile supports the Department of Agriculture’s Adaptation and Mitigation Initiative in Agriculture (AMIA) program.

“A lot of information on climate-smart agriculture practices is already out there.” says Godefroy Grosjean, leader of CIAT’s Climate Policy Hub. “The difficulty is to know what to do where, and this is because challenges in agriculture require very context- and site-specific responses, even within countries. What we try to do is help generate and consolidate all this evidence to support sound decision making by governments.”

The Philippines’ fight against climate change

The AMIA program was launched in 2013 as the government’s response to the challenges faced by agricultural communities around the country. An archipelago on the western fringes of the Pacific, the Philippines is one of the countries most vulnerable to impacts of climate change. It ranks highest in the world in terms of vulnerability to tropical cyclones, third in terms of the number of people exposed to such seasonal events, and fourth among countries most affected by extreme weather. Every year agriculture bears huge damages from disasters, which are generally climate-related. On average, typhoon-related damage alone is estimated at US$136 million annually. Floods, droughts, and pest outbreaks linked to heat and water stress, are some of the other problems exacerbated by rising temperatures.

The program seeks to increase resilience of climate risk-prone agricultural communities by scaling-up agricultural practices that are proven to sustainably enhance productivity. Such climate-smart or climate-resilient practices also mitigate climate change, and ultimately, will contribute to the country’s efforts to achieve food security. The AMIA program aims to scale-up climate-smart practices by, first, building a science-based knowledge platform, and then putting this knowledge into practice on the ground by enhancing capacity of various stakeholders including that of relevant Philippine institutions.

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.

To be able to identify which areas in each region are most in danger, the program, with help from CIAT, performed a climate-risk vulnerability assessment for 10 out of the country’s 17 regions.

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, determine its level of vulnerability

“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, Director of the Department of Agriculture-Systems-wide Climate Change Office. According to vulnerability assessment results, under a high emission scenario by 2050, agriculture faces the highest climate-risk exposure in the regions of Mindanao, Negros Occidental, and Iloilo. This will threaten the livelihoods of around three million people relying on agriculture, and the supply of rice and fruits to the entire country. The exposure index comprises a range of climate hazards such as typhoons, storm surges, floods, drought, erosion, landslides, salt water intrusion, and sea level rise.

Provinces – Cotabato, Davao del Sur – in the Central and Southern Mindanao regions, together with Iloilo and Negros Occidental in the Visayas, account for an overall higher exposure risk index.

But while parts of Mindanao show the highest exposure to risk, some parts also appear to have the most to gain in terms of overall agricultural productivity. Ten crops planted there – rice, corn, rubber, coffee, cacao, eggplant, tomato, squash, banana, and mango – could become more suitable compared to other parts of the country that face less favorable climatic conditions in 2050. In those latter areas, sustainable agricultural and natural resource management practices are needed now more than ever.

The integrity of the natural environment – a region’s natural capital – is one of the five “capitals” that were compiled to measure an area’s capacity to adapt to the consequences of a warming climate. The others are economic, human, physical, and institutional. Based on this, the areas with a comparatively low adaptive capacity are in Quezon, Camarines Sur, Isabela, Ilocos Sur, and Negros Occidental.

Various areas in the provinces of Quezon, Camarines Sur, and Negros Occidental show a comparatively very low adaptive capacity, while municipalities in Tarlac and Iloilo display a higher adaptive capacity.

Scaling-up resilient agriculture and building sustainable agricultural communities
In terms of overall vulnerability, each of the ten regions have certain areas that are particularly vulnerable to climate risks.

The 2050 climate risk vulnerability map integrates the exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity components. Each of the ten regions show areas that are particularly vulnerable to climate risks.

This radar graph of the province of Negros Occidental shows the municapality of Pontevedra’s dangerous combination of the elements of vulnerability: high exposure to hazards, high crop sensitivity to changes to temperature and precipitation, and low capacity to adapt based on its natural, economic, human, physical, and institutional capital. Experts consulted in the course of the study considered the last element the most critical.

The municipality of Pontevedra in the province of Negros Occidental in Central Philippines is one such area. Negros Occidental is exposed to a number of climate-related hazards which include flooding, rain-induced landslides, storm surges, typhoons, and drought. An episode of the El Niño phenomenon from November 2015 to July 2016 – which brought a severe dry spell to the area – affected more than 8,000 hectares of rice farms resulting in estimated losses of about US$5.6 million.

Enduring problems, such as lack of water and irrigation systems/infrastructure, are exacerbated by episodes of drought in Pontevedra. According to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization in 2017, only about 13% of the country’s total agricultural area of 12.3 million hectares is irrigated. Farmers in Negros Occidental also 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.

To regain soil health and increase productivity, some farmers in the province have been practicing organic farming. One is Delia Edianel, who has been cultivating organic rice, and using drought-tolerant varieties, for five years. Edianel, 63, shifted to organic farming because of worries for her health, and that of her 83 year-old mother, as well as the health of her soil. She had noticed previously how crops barely grew no matter the amount of chemical fertilizer she applied. 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.

Having suffered a stroke twice, Edianel has turned to organic farming to feed an alternative lifestyle. She says yield is better too than when she was using chemical fertilizer.

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 red rice – a traditional variety adapted to the local environment – proves to 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. An online tool (https://cbatool.ciat.cgiar.org) is available for anyone wanting to analyze the economic and social costs and benefits of a particular agricultural practice.

The CSA profile provides recommendations for investment priorities for each region and are found in the region’s investment briefs prepared by CIAT and partner state colleges and universities.

But while climate-resilient practices are already being adopted by some small-scale farmers in the country, uptake is still low due to a variety of reasons. These include poor availability of and access to improved seed, insufficient financial resources to cover investment costs, and weak capacity of extension services.

The next step, according to Ilaga is to establish ‘AMIA villages’, which are 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, of technology, of capability-building to implement climate change adaptation in the whole of the Philippines.”

The Philippine government’s Adaptation and Mitigation Initiative in Agriculture program is a partner to the CIAT Climate Policy Hub, a knowledge center that brings together the latest climate and agricultural science to support the development of policies for CSA. Elsewhere in Asia, CSA country profiles are being compiled for Vietnam, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Bhutan. CSA country profiles have also been produced for several countries in Africa and Latin America within the frame of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

Photos: Madelline Romero/CIAT