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Empower, build farmers’ resiliency against climate change APEC members told

MEMBERS of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) were asked to build the capacity of farmers to cope with climate change and recover from disasters by providing them access to basic services, technology, tools and relevant information. 

This way, farmers, especially the resource-poor ones would be empowered to employ adaptation and mitigation strategies, says Raul Montemayor, a former board of director of the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation, a corporate arm of the Department of Agriculture (DA)

In the Philippines, he said the institutional framework on climate change is already in place and the farmers are part of the framework.  

According to Montemayor, the Department of Agriculture has also put up a forum or platform for the private sector, the farmers and other sectors, which is linked with the Climate Change Commission.

He said government efforts to help farmers are focused on their coping capacities.

Yet he said that there are still a lot of things to be done to strengthen the country’s resiliency to climate change.

“The Aquino administration has also doubled the budget for agriculture.  It is a good sign after long years of neglect.  Hopefully, the funding support will be sustained.
Farmers must be capacitated on resiliency for them to be prepared for any adversity,” he said.

Agriculture undersecretary Segfredo Serrano, APEC Cooperation TWG Focal Point for the Philippines, agrees.

“When you look at the impact of climate change, look into the mindset of the farmers.  Risks have been dealt with by farmers and these are calculable. With the advent of climate change, these risks have become uncertainties and uncertainties cannot be calculated.  Mitigation is easier to sell compared to adaptation.  Certain countries or sector will do their share to help generate resources that may help in the mitigation and adaptation process.  Government must address the concerns of climate change because farmers can handle uncertainties from better information,” Serrano said, citing as an example the traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples, whose capacity to cope to climate change disasters were generated by regularities of experience.  

“It is just a matter of putting them in proper perspectives,” he said.

According to Montemayor, farmers should be able to participate in policy and action program planning on how to deal with the worst impacts of climate change, considering that they are among the first to be affected and last to recover from such disasters.

Montemayor, the past chairman of International Fund for Agricultural Development – MTCP-Medium Term Cooperation Programme (IFAD-MTCP) Farmers Forum for Southeast Asia plus China, said APEC members need to mainstream climate change programs with its overall developmental approaches and policies considering its impacts, particularly to agriculture stakeholders.

Montemayor who gave participants a farmer’s viewpoint on climate change and its impacts to farmers during the APEC Symposium on Climate Change dubbed “Adaptation Strategies with Mitigation Potential for Food and Water Security” held at the Shangri-la Hotel in Manila recently presented his paper to push for a bigger role for farmers major in climate change adaptation and mitigation  

The symposium hosted by the Philippines through the Department of Agriculture was participated in by policy makers and implementers, researchers/scientists and practitioners from APEC economies and selected organizations.

To build farmers’ resiliency to disasters, Montemayor said there is a need to provide them basic support services, strengthen their tenurial security, increase farmers’ incomes, promote sustainable, integrated and diversified farming and make them less dependent on farming by diversifying their incomes.

According to Montemayor, farmers play a crucial role in climate change adaptation and mitigation, therefore they must be heard in policy, and participate in action program planning as well as in technology development.

“There is a need to provide them timely, accurate, and useful meteorological, geological and other relevant information,” he said.

On top of such providing them basic support services, the government should also take the lead in developing superior crop varieties that are stress tolerant, and develop “adaptive tools, technologies and practices” for the food producers.

According to Montemayor, governments should also put in place a swift disaster response and provide timely relief assistance, including credit and other support to enable farmers to recover from their loss in the event of destructive flood, or drought.

However, Montemayor stressed that climate change adaptation strategies need to be “location and context-specific, integrated and flexible” and should be done with the participation of farmers and farmers’ organizations.

Among the potential contribution of the world’s food producers are water management, stewardship of forest lands, responsible application of fertilizers, effective management and use of waste and biomass and the practice of climate-friendly farming systems and technologies. 

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