IRRI scientist Wassmann (center) talks about climate change in the Philippines and making the country's food production climate-proof. Also in photo: Prof. Cruz of UPLB (left) and Dr. Gonsalvez of IIRR (right).
LOS BAÑOS, Philippines—"Are we ready for climate change yet?" The question was posed by members of the Philippine Agricultural Journalists (PAJ) to experts during the forum Usapang sakahan: Climate Change: Handa na ba tayo? on 23 February.
"Would you ever be ready for something like climate change?" responded Dr. Reiner Wassmann of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and a member of the panel of climate change experts. "It does not only apply to the Philippines but in many other countries as well. What I have to say is a lot of things are happening and the country is trying to be more prepared now than before."
Dr. Julian Gonsalvez, a senior consultant of the International Institute for Rural Reconstruction (IIRR), agreed. "There is a momentum and optimism. The science community in the Philippines have a lot to offer,” he said. “What we need to do is to move action to where it is needed the most. At any time, you need to have location-specific solutions. Who plays a role in that but the local government?"
The Philippines gets an average of about 20 typhoons a year, unlike many of its Southeast Asian neighbors, and this poses a threat to agricultural productivity. Gonsalvez explained that disaster risk reduction is becoming more widely adopted as a framework for farmers to adapt to climate change.
Prof. Rex Victor Cruz of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) recommended creating a common land-use framework through zoning.
"Our land-use policies are still in disarray and we need to unify these policies," he said. "For example, existing land-use laws are in place through the Agricultural Fisheries Modernization Act. But local government agencies have the authority to convert 15% of lands within their jurisdiction based on the local government code. Right away, we see these two laws oppose each other. That's where the problem is.”
Wassmann noted that from a scientific point of view, and if zoning is done correctly, the country would benefit from the agricultural diversity. He and Gonsalvez are incorporating it as an element in a project that promotes climate-smart villages.
PAJ member Rex Navarro, who is also a farmer, shared that the most difficult climate change-related problem for rice farmers is too much rain, too little rain or getting rain at the wrong time.
Gonsalvez explained how in Capiz, Iloilo, where most of the rice areas are rainfed, it became possible for farmers to grow a third rice crop in a year.
"It took only two days for a backhoe to build one reservoir, and now Capiz has at least 40 reservoirs,” he said. "That is climate-smart agriculture; it's something that addresses food security and prepares people for climate change in a way that doesn't produce a lot of greenhouse gasses.”
"If we do not recognize the importance of smallholder farmers, we are missing an opportunity to promote climate-smart agriculture that has social inclusiveness as an important element to climate change adaptation," Gonsalvez added.
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