To fight climate change, Mindanao's farmers look to agroforestry

GMA News Online

As farmers suffer the brunt of global warming's relentless advance, agroforestry seems a viable technique for a better quality and higher yield of harvest despite worsening climate conditions.

Around 400 farmers in Columbio and Esperanza, Sultan Kudarat, and 400 more farmers from Lanuza, Surigao del Sur are looking into agroforestry to cope with diverse forms of economic shocks and climate vulnerabilities, said Dante A. Dalabajan, Project Manager of Oxfam's Building Resilient and Adaptive Communities in Mindanao (BINDS) program.

Agroforestry is essentially a diversification of crops in one farm, thereby diversifying a farmer's income stream as well, Dalabajan said.

Local government units in Mindanao, with the help of international humanitarian organization Oxfam, are trying to cope with the effect of extreme weather events that ruin their crops and livelihood.

40% of the Philippines' domestic food needs and 30% of the country's food exports come from Mindanao, yet in 2011, Typhoon Sendong damaged an estimated $48.4 million worth of properties and livelihood in the area.

The following year, Typhoon Pablo devastated Mindanao once again, affecting 6.3 million people, with more than 200,000 homes damaged or destroyed. Major sources of income, like large banana, coconut, corn, and rice farms were flattened to the ground. Mindanao suffered an estimated loss of $780 million.

Dalabjan also cited Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley, two areas that were devastated by Typhoon Pablo. Both areas are also largely economically dependent to banana plantations.

During Typhoon Pablo caused extensive crop damage.

“Dumapa ang mga banana plantations,” Dalabajan said.

By planting more crops in one area, a farmer relies on several streams of income. If one kind of crop is damaged by a strong typhoon, a farmer practicing agroforestry will still have other crops to fall back on and sell.

This method is also more environment-friendly since it fosters a more diverse ecosystem that has little reliance on inorganic input like artificial fertilizers.

“Dahil iba't iba ang commodities, you are also attracting different forms of wildlife na hindi mo makikita pag [one kind of] plantation lang,” Dalabajan said.

Dalabajan said that Oxfam is also encouraging communities to practice community seed banking.

Farmers, with the help of some scientists, breed drought-resistant seed varieties, a portion of which are kept in seed banks for the next planting seasons. – KDM, GMA News