The Philippines is one of the countries most at risk from the climate crisis. It faced increasing temperatures and extreme weather events such as droughts, tropical cyclones, and heavy monsoon rain during recent years.
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), between 2010-2019, extreme weather events in the Philippines caused ₱463 billion in damages, 62.7 percent of which or about ₱290 billion were damages to the agriculture sector. According to government data, the country’s agricultural output shrank by about 2.6 percent after a decline in crops caused by such weather conditions.
The recent Typhoon Paeng in October alone caused significant damage to Philippine agriculture, amounting to P3.4B. The super typhoon affected 89,142 farmers and fisherfolk throughout Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.
Paeng was only one of an average of 20 typhoons that enter the Philippine Area of Responsibility annually. The Department of Agriculture (DA) also disclosed the volume of production loss at 207,854 metric tons in 89,011 hectares of land during the said typhoon. Affected commodities include rice, corn, high-value crops, fisheries, livestock, and poultry, with some damages to agricultural infrastructures, machinery, and equipment. Such loss affects the Filipinos’ bid for food security.
Jim Reeves Laguitao, a farmer from Benguet, faces substantial challenges regarding the productivity of his farm due to extreme weather events such as typhoons. He and his family are running the Oh Wangan Integrated Farm, located in the southeastern part of the Cordillera, the immense mountain range in the northern Philippine island of Luzon.
His family belongs to the Ibaloi community, an indigenous ethnic group that lives in agriculture. Ibalois engage especially in wet rice and swidden farming.
Depending on the location, the Ibalois grow various crops ranging from rice to high-value profit crops, like tomatoes, peanuts, and bell pepper.
Excessive rain and flooding caused by typhoons have caused severe agricultural losses to Laguitao and the rest of the Ibaloi community.
“The damage caused by typhoon Paeng on our farm was estimated at P20,000 pesos. Some of my close relatives experienced great damage on their farms and they were frustrated because the months of hardships were wasted,” Laguitao shared.
Laguitao, who has studied agricultural engineering, wants to uplift Philippine agriculture by making it more accessible, productive, and profitable. In 2016 the family has converted their farm to organic agriculture. Before that, they applied conventional farming methods, including synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Oh Wangan Integrated Farm organically grows leafy vegetables, such as spinach, lettuce, pechay, and more.
“We also have coffee and lemon planted around the steep portion of the farm, and we produce different upland seedlings, which we sell to farmers,” adds Laguitao. He inherited his farm from his parents. “I was raised by a farming family. Since childhood, I was already engaged in farming”, he says.
According to the Cordillera Indigenous Knowledge on Agriculture, Forestry, and Biodiversity, the Ibaloi community follow a land use pattern wherein they maximize the utilization of the area. One practice they widely implement is agroforestry, a land use management system in which trees or shrubs are grown around or among crops or pastureland.
The agripreneur applies integrated farming on their land, as the name of their family farm suggests, since it helps them become more resilient against climate change. The common element here is the presence of trees (and shrubs) in crop and livestock farming.
Pratap Toppo and Abhishek Raj, authors of the study Role of agroforestry in climate change mitigation in the Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry, claim that “introduction of the resistance plant variety, mixed cropping, reforestation, and agroforestry practices are major remedial measure to mitigate climate change which helps to uplift the socioeconomic status of people.”
As trees grow, they help absorb and sink the carbon that would otherwise contribute to global warming.
“We practice integrated production wherein we try to produce and raise vegetables, coffee, lemon, vegetable seedlings, and swine,” he said. “This has been beneficial to us because there is still a possible source of income whenever other crops are damaged by the adverse effects of climate change.”
Depending on their variety, lemon trees exhibit weather-tolerant properties, allowing them to withstand certain temperatures. Meanwhile, most coffee varieties, like Arabica and Robusta, aren’t as climate resistant.
A fortified root system among the lemon and coffee trees provides a safety blanket to the crops on Laguitao’s farm.
As per the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Integrated production recommends farmers more efficient risk management strategies and options to adapt to climate-induced disturbances as it allows them to diversify their production and source of income.
In an integrated farming system, the FAO describes the production components of a farm as “mutually supportive and mutually dependent.” Of the three agroforestry types listed by the FAO, Laguitao practices an agrosylvopastoral system that integrates trees, animals, and crops.
Moreover, an integrated livestock-crop farming production system, similar to what Laguitao uses on their farm, can also reduce soil activity, avoiding the emission of greenhouse gasses (GHG) to the atmosphere from land use.
Numerous Filipino farmers also practice integrated farming throughout the country, especially since there are other integrated farming systems. The Department of Agriculture (DA) lists several farms that follow an integrated farming system, depending on which best fits their conditions.
Some examples include crop rotation, natural fertilizer application, cover crops, and reduced application of pesticides. It requires less energy and water consumption, allowing farms to reduce their waste and carbon footprint.
Carbon footprint refers to the amount of greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide and methane) generated by human actions.
Through waste reduction, people can lessen the carbon footprint they release to the atmosphere, thus decreasing greenhouse gases contributing to climate change and extreme weather conditions. One approach that farmers find more accessible is switching to organic systems.
In a study by Małgorzata Holka, Jolanta Kowalska, and Magdalena Jakubowska, they claim that “Organic farming has the potential for reducing GHG emissions and improving organic carbon sequestration. This system eliminates synthetic nitrogen fertilizers and thus could lower global agricultural GHG emissions. When used with other environmentally friendly farming practices, significant reductions of GHG emissions can be achieved.”
The DA, through its official training arm, the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI), encourages farmers to switch to organic and integrated farming practices through curated seminars and training throughout the country.
Apart from a government initiative, some Filipinos also learn about integrated farming practices from their community. Since Laguitao is a member of the Ibaloi community, he happily shares this practice with others to promote its use.
“We share this knowledge with other young people and farmers who sometimes work with us on our farm,” he said.
Moreover, Laguitao shares information with people who visit their family farm. He also utilizes social media to encourage other producers to follow a more diversified and integrated approach to farming.
Laguitao and the Oh Wangan Integrated Farm continuously encourage and employ the youth to generate jobs and to help assure food security for their community and the nation.
Although the agripreneur and other farmers have yet to adapt to the impact of climate change, they set an example, especially within their Indigenous community, that Filipinos are not helpless in this global crisis. If anything, it proves that they work together and inspire future generations to play their role in protecting the planet.
The youth have become more vital in adapting to climate change and securing the future of Philippine agriculture. With these efforts, the nation has a better chance of adapting to the impact of climate change and educating future generations to achieve the goal of mitigating its effects and creating a better world for all.
Disclaimer: Thus publication was created and maintained with the financial support of the German Federal Foreign Office through Deutsche Welle. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Patricia Taculao and do not necessarily reflect the views of the German Federal Foreign Office and Deutsche Welle.