The Filipino farming community is one of the most vulnerable sectors in the face of climate change. In 2017 and 2018, there has been a decline in the country’s agriculture production, part of which could be attributed to losses incurred from typhoons and disasters of recent years.
To evaluate responses to the impacts of climate change on Philippine agriculture, the International Potato Center (CIP), in collaboration with Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), conducted a Regional Policy Forum on “Opportunities for a Climate-Smart Food System in the Philippines” held on February 7, 2019 at the Astoria Plaza, Pasig City. Sixty-three participants across several institutions – the government sector, policy institutes, international organizations, academia, and the civil society – examined national and regional development plans that look into climate change adaptation methods for agriculture.
The forum was divided into three main sessions: a discussion on prevailing food systems and related climate-resilience agriculture practices, an evaluation of opportunities and challenges for climate-resilient agriculture, and a panel on the reflections of policy experts.
Perpi Tiongson, Associate Director of the OML Center, was one of the speakers and discussed the opportunities and challenges of the private actor in climate resilience. She introduced the Private Markets for Climate Resilience Project or the PMCR Project, a six-country collaboration led by the Global Climate Adaptation Partnership and Grupo Laera with the OML Center as a country partner.
The PMCR project recognized the private sector as a key economic and social actor that could respond to the agricultural challenges brought about by climate change. Thus, it aimed to encourage the private sector to invest in climate adaptation for agriculture by (1) identifying the leaders that will shape the emerging market, (2) highlighting climate-change-resilient products, services, tools and processes, (3) creating an information platform with emerging opportunities for investment, and (4) identifying companies that are candidates for investment.
While its premise is promising, the project acknowledges that challenges still abound. Opportunities for climate risk management such as the development of hybrid varieties and crop insurance may already exist, but there are still issues of accessibility, as well as uptake and adoption. Other speakers joining Ms. Tiongson in the second session include Ms. Sampriti Baruah (CIP), who presented insights on food systems of Central Luzon and Nueva Vizcaya, and Mr. Nicostrato Perez (IFPRI), who emphasized the importance of investments supported by extension services (e.g. training, demo farms, weather forecasting, etc.), as well as ancillary industries.
During the open discussion, one of the concerns raised about the PMCR Project was on developing a business model for community-based irrigation systems involving the private sector. Ms. Tiongson confirmed that it was feasible, but only if there were windows or policies to allow the private sector to do so. Another concern was on the sustainability of partnerships between the private and public sectors. Ms. Tiongson noted that, like with any other collaborative projects, there had to be clear benefits on both sides in order for the partnership to flourish.
The forum also included presentations on climate-resilient agriculture in Rice (Sol Gonzales, Abagon Compact Farms and Seed Growers MPC), Maize (Cesar Tabago, Sapang MPC), and Sweet Potato (Felixberto Udtohan, Farmer Leader). In the last session, a panel gave rise to topics such as the Agriculture Chapter of the Philippine Development Plan (Rory Dacumos, Chief Economic Development Specialist of NEDA), the Department of Agriculture’s major programs on the effects of climate change (Dr. Irene S. Adion, Chief, Research Division, DA RFO III), improvements on food security and commodity-resilient policies (Dr. Julieta Roa, Professor, VSU), and the role of women in the farming sector (Dr. Thelma Paris, Gender and Development Consultant).
The event may have brought to light several plans on climate change adaptation for Philippine agriculture, but the challenge of action still remains. “Very often our plans are also very nicely worded but lack operational details on how we will go into scale beyond the pilot.” Dr. Leocadio Sebastian of the CCAFS muses. The forum recognizes the need to process the information and proposed plans in order to translate them into tangible systems that would be efficient for Filipino farmers in the long run.