Climate change adversely affecting Cordillera’s agriculture sector – FAO
Rudy A. Fernandez (The Philippine Star) - February 5, 2015 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Climate change-induced natural disasters continue to adversely affect the agriculture sector of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).

The Cordillera mountain range is home to a big portion of the country’s remaining forests and biodiversity. It is also the headwater of the nine major river systems that provide irrigation to Luzon’s rice-producing areas, noted a United Nations-Food and Agriculture Organization (UN-FAO) report.

The frequent and intense occurrences of climate-triggered natural calamities have affected Cordillera farmers, including those in nearby lowland provinces, emphasized Dr. Roberto Sandoval Jr. and Stephen Baas in a joint report titled “Adopting to Climate Change: The Cordillera Experience.”

They added: “Climate change has escalated the uncertainties in the region’s agricultural production as the increased occurrence, intensity, and length of rainfall events – which consequently increase erosion rates, trigger landslides, and make certain crops susceptible to diseases – have impacted crop production in the region, particularly during the crops’ critical growth stages.”

The FAO specialists pieced together the report with reference to Sandoval’s paper titled “Community-based Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) in Contiguous Agricultural Ecosystems” presented at an international conference organized by the Philippine government-hosted, Los Baños-based Southeast Asian  Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), Asia Pacific Adaptation Network (APAN), the University of the Philippines-Los Baños.

A synopsis of the Sandoval-Baas report was published by SEARCA under its “Agriculture and Development Notes: Climate Change Adaptation.”

The report noted that in Benguet province, a vegetable-based agriculture area in the Cordilleras, problems include vulnerability to landslides, soil nutrient depletion, and crop failure owing to more extreme temperatures.

On the other hand, Ifugao province is also vulnerable to landslides and experiences irregular rainfall, long dry spells, and intense typhoons which have made rice production difficult for the farmers.

In view of these harsh realities, the Department of Agriculture (DA) and FAO launched a few years back a project titled “Enhanced Climate Change Adoptation Capacity of Communities on Contiguous Fragile Ecosystems in the Cordilleras.”

The project aims to address farmers’ vulnerability to climate change by enhancing the capacities of local stakeholders through demonstration of good practice options in Benguet and Ifugao that improve local coping mechanisms to climate impacts.

The good practice options for CCA pertain to indigenous and new potential location-specific agricultural practices that could increase farmers’ climate resilience and better prepare them for floods, droughts, pests and diseases, among other hazards.

The CCA options include activities in forest management, crops and livestock production, water management, and alternative livelihood options, which have the potential to be mainstreamed at the national level.

Sandoval and Baas said that good practices, if combined with science or knowledge-based technologies, could help farmers become resilient in their farming strategies.

They summed up the CCA options in terms of ability to address slow-onset climate change impact, reduce the risk of climate variability and extreme weather events and enhance livelihood security.

The Cordilleras experience generated several key lessons.

First, as gatekeepers of natural resources, farmers must be at the center of climate change adaptation. Also, participatory action research (PAR) is an effective way to initiate local adaptation processes.

“The sensitization of local government executives was instrumental in creating an enabling environment for implementing local CCA processes,” the FAO climate change experts pointed out.

Moreover, local participatory vulnerability assessments are a good venue for community mobilization and these can be complemented with scientific modeling tools if data availability shows robust results.

The FAO report concluded: “Existing polices and development instruments can serve as important entry points for institutionalizing CCA.”

AGRICULTURE AND DEVELOPMENT NOTES ASIA PACIFIC ADAPTATION NETWORK BENGUET AND IFUGAO CHANGE CLIMATE CLIMATE CHANGE CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION CONTIGUOUS AGRICULTURAL ECOSYSTEMS CONTIGUOUS FRAGILE ECOSYSTEMS
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