What climate-smart villages teach

AT least 22 climate-smart agriculture (CSA) educators and practitioners from Cambodia, Indonesia, Germany, Myanmar, the Philippines and Thailand have completed a blended course on climate-smart villages (CSV), immersing themselves in community innovations.

Starting with a webinar in September, "Climate-Smart Villages as Platforms for Community-Level Anticipatory Climate Adaptation to Improve Food Security and Resiliency: A Roving Workshop" featured speakers on agriculture, nutrition, food systems and nature-based solutions.

The onsite sessions that followed featured learning sites in the provinces of Cavite, Quezon and Laguna, where the participants witnessed firsthand how food systems-sensitive climate change adaptation (CCA) platforms are established, sustained and scaled in communities.

The course was conducted by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) and the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR). According to SEARCA Director Glenn Gregorio, this year's course was the second activity jointly offered by SEARCA and IIRR since it was first presented in 2019.

Emily Monville-Oro, IIRR acting Asia regional director, identified communities as their "partners in development. Gone are the days when we went to the community with set programs because we felt like they needed them. Now, we have recognized that communities have something to offer." She also encouraged participants to "have an open mind, free from biases and preconceived ideas or solutions."

During the course, learning teams observed CSV concepts and social processes, discussed with farmer learning groups and reflected on their findings. Gregorio said the roving workshop at IIRR Bio-Intensive Garden Learning Center showcased an agro-ecological approach to gardening.

Field visits

The participants visited an Indigenous multistory agroforestry site for coffee and an intensive organic farm in Cavite, as well as the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in Quezon for a briefing about their programs, particularly the climate adaptation technologies for the fisheries sector.

Six farming villages in Guinayangan, Quezon, taught CSV approaches such as restoration of coffee-based systems and nursery techniques; integrated lowland and irrigated rice-based farming systems; agroforestry with upland cacao and fruit trees; intensification of coconut-based farming systems with coffee and fruit trees; women-led diversified farming systems; biodiversity custodians; youth-led native chicken breed conservation; and coastal resource management.

After two farm demonstration sites in Guinayangan, the final stop was the roving workshop at the OMG Farm in Los Baños, Laguna, where the SEARCA director gave a briefing on crop diversification, tissue culture technology and digital agriculture using drone technology.

Gregorio said the participants presented their reflections and findings from their field visits to CSVs integrating climate-smart approaches, strategies and technologies with recommendations for enhancing CSA interventions, and social and institutional processes.

Other presentations included individual reentry action plans (REAPs) for implementation in their respective organizations based on their course learnings. Providing critique and insights were panelists Julian Gonsalves, IIRR senior program adviser and the roving workshop's technical consultant; Nur Azura Adam, SEARCA deputy director for programs; and Dianne Arboleda, IIRR Global Learning program manager.

Martin Mueller from Germany noted the training enabled him to ask the right questions and have more fundamental concepts in mind when developing interventions in the areas of CCA and nutrition security.

Wisnu Lunardi, a knowledge associate from Indonesia, said that the course will help "design a curriculum and knowledge-based model for our internship program and our farmers."

"Innovation doesn't have to be expensive. Sometimes, the villages have ingenious ways of overcoming climate change. It looks so simple, but it works," Nur said, expressing hope for their respective REAPs to be implemented.