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Local smallholder farmers get chance at climate-smart agriculture

Monday, May 15, 2017 06:13 AM    Views : 225by:Catherine J. Teves/PNA

MANILA, May 15 -- A new technology-based project aims enabling Philippine smallholder farmers to undertake cost-efficient, high-yielding and resilient agriculture amidst climate change.

Launched Monday in Metro Manila, the 18-month "Improving Productivity in Agriculture through Climate-Smart Technology (ImPACT) Philippines" project seeks promoting such agriculture to help improve food security and income of farmers who are among the country's most impoverished.

"Farmlands are being converted into settlements and fewer people are engaging in agriculture while extreme weather events are increasing," said ImPACT project director Joseph Arnel Go during the launch, citing food security- and income-threatening factors that raised urgency for the project.

Buguias municipality in top vegetable producer Benguet province is ImPACT's pilot site due to concentration of farmers there and availability of telecommunication companies' signals for cellular phone use.

The NGO Asia Society for Social Improvement and Sustainable Transformation (ASSIST) is ImPACT's implementing partner.

ASSIST, Austrian agriculture technology company Pessl Instruments GmbH and investment financier DEG of the KfW banking group are participating in ImPACT in cooperation with agricultural conglomerate Calata Corporation and State-run Agricultural Training Institute which will train farmers concerned.

Pessl Asia-Pacific regional director Vishnu Nair said under ImPACT, which DEG is helping fund with a cash contribution of about 170,000 euros, the Austrian company will set up instruments in the site to gather micro-climatic data.

He said experts from Switzerland-based meteorology service Meteoblue will use such data in monitoring and forecasting weather in Buguias.

Buguias farmers will receive the forecasts, through a special app in their smartphones, so they can be informed of possible weather in forthcoming days.

The farmers can even receive information about diseases threatening their crops, noted Nair.

"Information they'll receive will help them respond based on science," he said on the launch's side.

Their response can range from adapting viable crop protection measures against climate change to reducing chemical use in farming, he noted.

Nair is open to the possibility of replicating ImPACT in other areas of the country.

He said smallholder farms in the Philippines and other parts of the world need support as these, not conglomerates, are the ones that collectively feed global population.

Senator and Senate agriculture and food committee chairperson Cynthia Villar lauded ImPACT's proponents for seeking to help improve food security and farmers' income nationwide.

"The Philippines is among the most vulnerable to climate change," she said at the launch.

Latest data indicate extreme weather events like supertyphoon 'Yolanda' (international name 'Haiyan') will likely be the norm in the Philippines, she also said.

Villar said estimated agricultural damage from 'Yolanda' already reached some PHP9 billion.

Onslaught of 'Yolanda' resulted in loss of crops totaling some 1.1 million metric tons and income of farmers this supertyphoon affected, she also said.

"It was only in August last year that farmers concerned started harvesting crops," she noted.

Aside from jeopardizing food security, she's concerned agricultural damage from future extreme weather events and other climate change impacts like sea level and temperature rise will further worsen the plight of Philippine farmers.

Some 22 percent of the country's population are still living below the poverty line and around 40 percent of this consist of farmers and fisherfolk, she said.

Average monthly income in such sector is about PHP5,000 only -- insufficient to feed a family of five, she noted.

'Yolanda' plowed through Central Philippines in November 2013, nearly destroying everything in its path and leaving behind a death toll exceeding 6,000 casualties.

Experts cited 'Yolanda' as among the world's strongest tropical cyclones to landfall.


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