Climate-smart farms yield bigger profit
From grasslands to diversified crop-yielding fields—this is the transformation that farmer Anastacio Gunay made possible in his farm in Guinayangan, Quezon province.
Like many other farmers in Quezon, Gunay is a longtime coconut farmer in this third-class municipality facing Ragay Gulf. Spanning more than 22,000 hectares, 68 percent of the total land area of Guinayangan is devoted to agricultural production, with 79 percent solely for coconut.
But tall coconut trees are not easily spared from strong typhoons and prolonged dry spells, which Guinayangan experiences more frequently and unpredictably due to climate change.
With the introduction of climate smart agriculture (CSA) practices led by development organization International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR), farmers like Gunay began to see diversity in their crops—and a promise of a more secure yield.
“When they (IRR people) arrived to teach us techniques in corn planting, we easily accepted it because it was additional profit,” he said. “We also don’t need to buy food now when we get hungry.”
Crop diversification is only one of the many CSA practices done in Guinayangan. It is, however, an important initial step toward turning the municipality into a climate-smart village (CSV), where research initiatives are implemented inclusively with the local government, in partnership with the farmers themselves.
CSVs are model villages that are most vulnerable to climate change. With similar projects implemented in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, the areas covered apply participatory action research, where community-based approaches are tested by farmers to see which farming practices adapt best in their climate to ensure resiliency and food security.
The project also aims to improve farm yield and income, while minimizing the carbon footprints of different farming systems.
The project to turn Guinayangan into a CSV began nearly a year ago, in partnership with the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security, and the Department of Agriculture and its regional offices.
But their best partners are the local farmers in the fields, who are provided not only with foundation seeds but also lessons and guidance in alternative and improved farming techniques.
In Gunay’s land, for instance, new corn and peanut varieties are tested for more intensive production, suitability for local conditions and marketability.
Grasslands below coconut trees are turned into intercropped areas, with yellow corn and leguminous plants providing nutrients to the soil and extra profit to the farmers.
Multiple cropping based on seasonal calendars also helps maximize productivity and enrich the soil.
With the help of a cooperative put up by the farmers themselves, a community seed bank has been established.
“We receive glutinous corn [seeds] from IIRR, and when the farmers harvest their crop, they will give two kilos back to the community,” said William Lopez Jr. of the municipal agriculture office.
As farmers pay back, a decentralized seed source is formed, giving them independence as growers. This becomes particularly necessary in case of typhoon damage and crop failure.
Crop diversification in the uplands is only one of the 12 impact areas designed by IIRR in the 54 barangays in Guinayangan.
Some of the other impact areas employ the production of disaster-resilient or “disaster days” crops, such as roots, tubers and banana; production of drought-resistant crops such as pineapple; low external input rice production through the system of rice intensification, and management of small livestock production, such as native pigs in climate-smart conditions.
Upland rice production is also tested in high-elevated areas of Guinayangan. It aims to bring back interest in heirloom rice, or traditional rice varieties that have high market value.
As these practices prove to be effective, a farmer-to-farmer scaling out and up method is employed to encourage other locals to try these CSA practices.
Guinayangan Mayor Cesar Isaac III, who has been hands-on in the project, envisions the municipality to be completely climate smart by 2019.
“I want Guinayangan to be the food basket of the fourth district of Quezon,” Isaac said.
Farmers as entrepreneurs
IIRR senior program adviser Julian Gonsalves said that beyond growing crops for their table, farmers must also think like entrepreneurs.
According to Gunay, a kilo of corn sells for about P14 when he brings it to the market himself, usually in nearby provinces.
“All of us farmers in the cooperative go together and travel to Lipa, for instance, to sell the corn ourselves,” Gunay said.
Selling the produce themselves means bigger earnings. However, it also means going through long journeys in rough, unpaved roads. The challenge now lies on better farm-to-market roads and more farming equipment for transport.
Still, Gonsalves said he was very hopeful for the promise of Guinayangan.
“We need farmer champions and learning centers,” Gonsalves said. “It has not been that good for us before, but now there is interest among policy makers and donors in what we are doing, and higher value (for the produce).”
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.