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by: Anjela Mae Era and Florenz Dean Cojuangco

Natural capital, defined as the ‘spectrum of physical assets within the natural environment that deliver economic value through ecosystem services’ (Voora and Venema, 2008), makes up a significant share (36%) of total wealth in developing countries; therefore, realizing it as a critical asset for development (The World Bank: Natural Capital Accounting, 2016). Moreover, significant warming due to climate change will occur in the Philippines with the expected mean temperature to rise by 1.5 to 2.6 degree Celsius over the coming 50 years (WAVES Philippine Country Report 2016).

Given this, change in climate and weather patterns will disrupt agricultural clockwork and affect lives of farmers (e.g. farm income). When calamities caused by natural hazards are longer, more often, and more extreme, these could potentially have a large impact on sectors who are dependent on natural resource for livelihood, and thus affecting economic growth. This dependence of farmers, fisherfolks, and animal raisers makes them even more vulnerable to the impact of disasters and climate change. (READ: Coping vs adapting: Aetas face tough choices as climate threats creep in.

Merging Scientific and Indigenous Knowledge

The province of Negros Occidental, under the leadership of Gov. Alfredo G. Marañon Jr., prioritizes supporting food security at the household level. According to Dr. Zeaphard Caellian (PDRRMO, Negros Occidental), the agricultural, fisheries, and livestock and poultry sectors are some of the main economic drivers of the province. These sectors contribute to the advancement of Negros Occidental’s advocacy which is food security. However, climate change poses a threat to these sectors. In order to address it, he said, “Farmers, fisherfolks, and animal raisers should be prepared in times of disasters due to the changing weather systems that may be linked to the changing climate. Through the training, we can equip them with knowledge and skills on how to cope with these changes”.

Through the “Strengthening the Capacities of Philippine Local Governments on Disaster Risk Reduction” (SCPLG-DRR) project, the province of Negros Occidental organized a series of Training of Trainers on Enhanced Climate Field School (CFS) Trainings and Climate Extension Advisory targeting practitioners in the field of agriculture, fisheries, and livestock and poultry. The CFS aims to build the capacities of farmers, fisherfolk, and animal raisers in anticipating and addressing the impact of climate-related hazards, and guide them in their decision making process concerning their production.

The enhanced training entailed the usage of both scientific and indigenous knowledge in decision making processes of the involved sectors. It was the highlight of the training in which the utilization of such knowledge in creating low-tech and improvised instruments to measure weather parameters are of vital importance since sophisticated and high-end technology is not readily accessible to farmers, fisher folks, and animal raisers. Through the training, the participants were able to learn how to create low cost, low tech instruments such as improvised wind vane and rain gauge, as well as, using alternative measurements (thermometers and tape measures for soil and air temperature, and height, respectively) in gauging weather parameters. The value of integrating indigenous knowledge with scientific knowledge is that merging both can substantially contribute to the creation of informed, feasible, and appropriate solutions to the challenges brought about by Climate Change and Disasters that affect the agricultural, fisheries, and livestock sectors.

Multi-sectoral approach

A salient feature of the enhanced CFS training is its multi-sectoral approach which includes not only the agricultural sector, but also the fisheries, and poultry and livestock sectors in its capacity development initiative.

In the agriculture sector, the training’s impact is apparent in utilizing weather forecasting as basis for actions. Mr. Artemio Argusar (Supervising Agriculturist of Silay City, Negros Occidental) said that, “through weather forecast, kung may prediction earlier (if there’s an early prediction), the farmer will know what to do with their crops”. He also emphasized that studying the climate and weather is beneficial when it comes to crop production because farmers will know what plants to grow on a certain period. They can also improve their planting calendar based on climate predictions.

The livestock and poultry sector also suffers the same consequences of climate change which is why the knowledge and skills provided by the training is instrumental in mitigating impacts. As stated by Dr. Yasmin Francesca Tan (Veterinarian I, Negros Provincial Veterinarian Office), “I’ve learned about weather and climate forecast and how I can correlate it with livestock production.  I learned about the Early Warning System as well, how animal raisers could use this in preparing for disasters that can have an impact on their livelihood. We can use this learning in strategizing and coming up with plans. For example, in the provincial pastures, we can strategize to plant grasses that we use in feeding animals on seasons that are conducive for growing such. Through weather forecast din, the livestock practitioners are advised earlier and therefore, can come up with mitigating practices”.

As for the fisheries sector, Mr. Roderico Bolo (Aquacultural Technologist in Sipalay, Cauayan, and Hinoba-an, Negros Occidental) learned “the importance of gathering meteorological data relevant to fish farmers that they will use in adjusting their cropping pattern. As well as, the importance of Early Warning System for coastal communities (fisher folks)”. He also highlighted the importance of community-based organization that should monitor the EWS.

On the road to climate and disaster resilience

The ninety local experts and practitioners from various sectors who finished the programme are expected to develop their own modules and to train others in their respective fields. Mr. Dennis Anthony Penualaan (Office of the Provincial Agriculture, Negros Occidental) said, “The trainers will bring back their knowledge and skills in their own locality. Thus, cascading the learning down to the farmers, fisherfolks, and animal raisers.”

They are also looking forward to drafting guidelines on ecosystem analysis specific for fisheries, and livestock and poultry, which the Negros Occidental Office of the Provincial Agriculture will be compiling.

As part of its participation in the “Strengthening the Capacities of Philippine Local Governments in Disaster Risk Reduction” (SCPLG-DRR) project and taking off from the climate and disaster risk appreciation training, the provincial government identified food security as a main concern.

SCPLG-DRR, an initiative funded by the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), aims to empower high risk, low capacity local governments to implement their chosen projects.

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