By Amabelle Franchesca Boncato
“We needed to make adjustments, we needed to make solutions,” – Marvin Navarrete, a farmer.
After the environmental catastrophes experienced by the Philippines due to climate change, the agricultural industry is obliged to make modifications to their farming methods to adapt to these adverse effects such as extreme drought, typhoons, and floods.
According to the record of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the total output of the agricultural sector declined as rice and corn production went down by 3.6%and 3.4%, respectively. As a result, it is seen that aside from poverty, climate change has an impact on crop production, being one of the major causes of food insecurity.
Based on the reports of the Department of Agriculture’s Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Operations Center, the damage of consecutive typhoons Quinta, Rolly, and Ulysses totaled up to Php 10.5 billion wherein 275,000 hectares of agricultural lands were destroyed and 150,000 farmers were affected.
Struggles of farmers over climate change
In a small land in Sampaloc IV, Dasmariñas City, Cavite, Marvin Navarrete, a farmer for 15 years, shared his improved farming system intended to uplift their livelihood wherein he explained that shifting to less vulnerable crops is effective as an adaptation method to climate change impacts.
According to him, the farmers struggle due to unpredictable weather patterns and long-term drought which make it harder for them to yield better products. He added that there’s a newly discovered pest called ‘armyworms’ which are resistant to insecticides and attack several types of crops.
“These past few years, farming is way harder than before. Drought triggers pest attacks on our crops and greatly affects farmers who are dependent on rainfall. However, if there’s too much water on our rice fields, it’ll be more prone to snails,” said Navarrete.
Assistance from city agriculturist
As a response, Jennifer S. Ibayan, Agriculturist II of the Agricultural Office in Dasmariñas City, Cavite, said that they provide free assistance services to aid farmers affected by climate change. She highlighted that by integrating technology, experts were able to innovate seeds that are resistant to pests and extreme weather events.
Aside from the free genetically modified seeds, they offer seminars to farmers to input new innovative ways of farming that can mitigate and adapt to drought, too much rainfall, and unpredictable weather patterns.
“Having advanced information regarding the new methods of farming is a big help for us. It allows us to come up with solutions rather than just relying on our prior knowledge,” Ibayan stated.
One of the suggested methods is using plastic to cover crops, which makes it easy to irrigate, fertilize and harvest the crops. Also, this practice regulates the temperature and humidity to protect plants from climate change impacts.
Furthermore, she said that they established youth organizations to nurture their interest in agriculture since they have more capabilities, ideas, and talents to improve the farming system in the country.
Land conversion as another burden
Moreover, Ibayan said that land industrialization is frequent in the city, and only around 1,200 hectares of the agricultural lot remains in the area, which is another burden, especially to farmers.
“85% of the farmers here in Dasmariñas are only renting lands to farm and if the owner decides to convert it to a commercial lot, the farmer will be forced to give up their livelihood,” said Ibayan.
Nevertheless, the respondents agreed that these new farming methods were helpful to lessen the struggles of every farmer especially in maintaining their income. As Ibayan pointed out, from the total expenses of farmers in growing crops, they only earn one-fourth of it compared to previous earnings where they profit 75% of it.
Also, they emphasized that applying these sustainable methods in different provinces will enable the whole country to adapt to and mitigate climate change. It will also raise awareness among farmers on how to protect and maintain their livelihood.
This article was written and prepared by Amabelle Franchesca Boncato (Student-Journalist) and Mark Bryan Bautista (School Paper Adviser) from Congressional Integrated High School, Division of Dasmariñas City as a final output of DepEd-DRRMS and AYEJ.org’s Green Beat Initiative: An Online Environmental Journalism Training.