Climate advocates in Bicol region get grant to promote seed-saving, sustainable farming

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Ronald Labrador shows some traditional rice varieties from TABI Farm, which is a trial farm in Imalnod in Legazpi City for crop resiliency. Photo courtesy of Rome Candaza/Bicol Umalohokan.

A group of environmental advocates in the Bicol region received a cash grant from the Climate Media Labs, helping them promote seed-saving, one of several methods involved in sustainable farming. 

Team Bicol Umalohokan, composed of Mavic Conde, Rome Candaza, and Apple Allison Perez, received PhP70,000 to implement a public awareness campaign about farming methods that will make crops more climate-resilient and less dependent on chemical fertilizers and pesticides. 

As one of the awardees of the Labs’ Umalohokan Implementation Grant, the Bicol-based group has produced, among others, feature and in-depth reports highlighting the benefits of sustainable production and consumption. 

The team recently published a feature story about the Tarabangan sa Bicol Inc. Farm, an organic farm in Legazpi City. The facility conducts tests on rice varieties and recommends the better ones to farmers who will then adopt and breed them. 

Seed-saving helps farmers cut costs because “it prevents them from getting burdened by debts just to buy chemical fertilizers,” said the feature story entitled “Why Balik Binhi program is a proactive climate response” dated October 30, 2021, written by Mavic Conde, and published by 

Through its awareness campaign, the group seeks to promote seed-saving, show how local government units can support it, and how humanitarian organizations can scale it up. 

Its published report is just one of several stories that the group produced as part of its campaign pitch, which it submitted when its members applied for inclusion at the Climate Media Labs. 

In late August, Team Bicol Umalohokan was one of ten groups that were given Umalohokan Fellowships by the Oscar M. Lopez Center. As fellows, they were entitled to attend the six-week learning program which was participated in by local and foreign climate scientists and climate communicators. 

In October, five teams — including Bicol Umalohokan — were given the Umalohokan Implementation Grants that enabled them to implement their campaign pitches. Named after the town criers who disseminated news in communities in pre-colonial Philippines, the Umalohokan Grant will help the teams fully implement their campaign and communications research plans. 

Four other teams that received the implementation grant were Salikhain Kolektib, which narrated the challenges faced by communities on small islands threatened by rising sea levels; G-Unit, which seeks to convince farmers to use new technologies and climate-resilient methods; DanTAOn, which aims to amplify the voices of the most vulnerable sectors; and last but not least, Bintuwak, emphasized the role of Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Practices (IKSP) of Nabaoynons in Malay, Aklan in developing local resilience. 

Most, if not all the pitches involved climate issues which could be best told through storytelling, which in turn was brought up by Anthony Leiserowitz, founder & director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. 

“Storytelling is essential to telling each of these ideas,” Dr. Leiserowitz said during one of the sessions of the Climate Media Labs. “It’s not just giving people facts, it’s actually letting them hear the stories, especially first-person stories, that can bolster, that can reinforce each of these ideas to become firm conclusions about climate change.”

Dr. Leiserowitz is one of the scientists and experts who delivered lectures for the Labs. Other featured experts include Ms. Lourdes Tibig, the lead author of an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate; Dr. Ma. Laurice Jamero, a contributing author of the recently released Working Group I report of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report; and Dr. Laura David, who heads the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute (UP-MSI). 

“While the science on climate change in the Philippines has increased ever since our Center was established in 2012, appropriate action is still lacking,” said Perpi A. Tiongson, associate director of the OML Center. “Communicating climate change and the potential for enabling action remain big challenges. The Climate Media Labs is one of the ways of helping provide context of the risks and impacts of climate change and of enabling action through documenting realities and surfacing stories of local experiences.” 

A final Umalohokan grant of PhP150,000 awaits the team that most creatively and successfully executes their blitz campaigns and research projects on the most relevant climate issue of their community. Register here for the multi-stakeholder forum on December 10, 2021. 

Visit the Balangay Media Project page on our website to learn more.