The Senate agriculture and food committee pushed yesterday for a radical shift in the agriculture sector from conventional farming to agro-ecology as the Philippines was labeled as the number one country in the world affected by climate change in 2013.
The shift, according to Cynthia A. Villar, committee chairperson, was spurred by a report of a German think tank, Germanwatch, submitted to the United Nations (UN) Framework Convention on Climate Change in Peru.
To support its new study, Germanwatch said the massive damage brought by typhoon Haiyan or Yolanda is an important case in point at the Global Climate Risk Index that was unveiled in the Peru convention.
The two other countries which suffered most from the effects of climate change last year are Cambodia and India.
In a speech at the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) Agriculture and Development Seminar Series (ADSS) in Los Baños. Laguna, Villar said there is more reason for the Philippines to focus on agro-ecology since it provides a number of environment-related benefits, aiming for environmental sustainability.
She spoke on ‘’Agro-Ecology for Sustainable Agriculture and Environment towards Food Security.’’
“And if only for those benefits, agro-ecology is indeed very timely as an alternative to conventional farming, taking into consideration that the country now experiences extreme weather disturbances such as stronger typhoons, draughts, El Niño/La Niña and other environmental risks. Thus, we need different approaches such as agro-ecology,” Villar explained.
She said she supports the assertion of UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director General José Graziano da Silva that there is a need for a “paradigm shift” in agriculture.
Da Silva said the main challenge facing world farming is to lower the use of agricultural inputs, especially water and chemicals, as well as to make food production viable in the long-term.
He also said agro-ecology is really farming in a more sustainable way, and sustainability is the key.
Villar said Da Silva’s points were echoed by United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Professor Hilal Elver. He noted that recent scientific researches increasingly prove how agro-ecology offers environmentally sustainable methods that meet the rapidly growing demand for food.
Da Silva related that based on estimates, there is a need to increase food production by over 60 per cent to meet the expected demand from a population of over nine billion in 2050.
“Ensuring food security is another factor that is of foremost consideration. And according to the FAO, only small farmers and agro-ecology can feed the world. It cites that 70 percent of food consumed globally comes from small farmers,” Villar pointed out.
Based on official statistics, 1.5 billion of people globally are estimated to be involved in family farming in over 500 million small farms worldwide.
Vlllar said agro-ecological concepts, and practices contribute to the three main goals of FAO: eradicating hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition; eliminating poverty and the driving forward of economic and social progress for all; and the sustainable management and utilization of natural resources, including land, water, air, and climate for the benefit of present and future generations.
The lady senator said the goals that FAO believes will be realized and met with the help of agro-ecology.
Because of this, Villar said ‘’we need to learn more about agro-ecology so that we can assess its benefits and promote its adoption and active implementation here in our agricultural country.’’
She emphasized it can likewise contribute to rural development that will result to higher incomes in rural areas.
Agro-ecology uses ecological concepts and principles to design and manage sustainable agro-ecosystems, offering benefits for productivity, food security, environmental sustainability, and important ecosystem services such as climate change mitigation.