Climate change ‘rattles’ farmers’ cropping calendar

  • 8 May 2015, Friday

Source: The Philippine Star
7 May 2015

LOS BAÑOS, Laguna, Philippines – Many local farmers are “rattled” by the changing weather patterns in the country.

In Camarines Sur, for example, farmers can no longer predict the shift in wet and dry seasons, noted the “Focused-Food Production Assistance to the Vulnerable Sector (FPAVAS)” project supported by the European Union.

“There are also abrupt changes in weather patterns – from very hot weather to short episodes of heavy rain showers in a day. Farmers take a big risk to planting because their traditional cropping calendar is no longer applicable,” the study said.

Further, only few rice farmers have adjusted their farming calendars.

FPAVAS is a project being implemented by the Philippine government-hosted, Los Baños-based Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), the French Agricultural Research Center for International Development (CIRAD), and the provincial governments of Oriental Mindoro, Occidental Mindoro, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Misamis Occidental, and Misamis Oriental. Also involved are the Department of Agriculture (DA) and National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).

The project aims to enhance food security and reduce poverty of poor families, particularly the vulnerable sector in the six target provinces.

A synthesis of the project’s initial findings is summed up in a report titled “Coping with Extreme Climate Events: Stories of Resilience in the Philippines” published by SEARCA under its Agriculture and Development Notes.

The report was written jointly by the EU-FPAVAS climate change team composed of Rogelio Concepcion (former director of the DA-Bureau of Soils and Water Management), Maria Victoria Espaldon (former vice chancellor of the University of the Philippines Los Baños), Sylvie Lewicki-Dhainaut, Ranell Martin Dedicatoria, and Edwin Abucay.

“Climate change is here and the people are suffering from its destructive effects,” asserted the research team.

For instance, 2010 was a very hot year and the wet season arrived only in June. Owing to this shift, harvest time extended until the rainy season.

“As a result, harvest coincided with the arrival of strong typhoons which caused flooding, thereby destroying more crops,” the team stated.

Misamis Oriental farmers in Mindanao are also finding difficulty in predicting the onset of the wet and dry seasons.

They observed that typhoons usually occurred around October to December in the 1990s. During the June-July period, the southeast monsoon (habagat) may bring heavy rains but are not damaging to crops.

From 2006 to 2008, typhoons arrived earlier than usual, becoming more frequent and of greater intensity. Misamis Oriental, however, barely experienced a typhoon in 2010.

“These unpredictable patterns increase the possibility of decrease in earnings or profits for farmers,” the FPAVAS research team said.

On the other hand, stories of drought are abundant among those living near Tabtaban Lake in Occidental Mindoro. In early 2010, the area had very little rainfall, thus the lake dried up.

The residents observed that rainfall has been declining in the past five years, with March and April considered the hottest months. During this time, the people suffer from lack of freshwater supply, high water temperature, and decrease in lake water, translating to decrease in fish catch and eventually adversely affecting livelihood.

To adapt, they diversified their farming by branching out into poultry and livestock or planting drought-resistant crops such as cassava. But others merely waited for the rains to come and, as a result, suffered from hunger.

The researchers concluded: “These narratives are but few of the many stories of resiliency in the Philippines waiting to be heard. Climate change is happening and people at the grassroots level have already felt its adverse impacts. As such, they are also among the first to respond to such threats.”  



The Philippine Star

7 May 2015