CLIMATE CHANGE

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Agriculture serves as a major contributor to the Philippine economy. In 2008, agriculture and fisheries constituted 15 percent of the country's gross domestic product valuing Php 1.1 trillion at current prices (NSO, 2008). In 2009, 34 percent of the total employed labor force is in agriculture (NSO, 2009).

Climate change with its pervasive effects on productivity and crop yield poses a serious threat to the sector of agriculture and to the country's food security. Climate change is deemed to cause significant changes in temperature, precipitation, occurrence of extreme weather conditions and sea level rise which all affect in various ways the performance of the agricultural sector.

Increase in temperature brought about by climate change is said to intensify stress in crops through amplification of evapotranspiration. Crops in areas with limited water supply are affected gravely by this increase in temperature affecting and reducing significantly crop yield. Also, decline in dairy production is anticipated with higher temperature. It is also foreseen that climate change may impact soil microorganisms and other microorganism populations.

Moreover, erratic rainfall affects land preparation and planting seasons. It affects the occurrence of major pests and diseases on agricultural crops. In the prevalence of drought, increased incidence of pests and diseases and occurrence of new ones are anticipated. On the other hand, severe flooding and soil erosion are expected with massive rainfall, damaging crops and livestock and adversely affecting productivity and soil fertility.

Hotter water, as a result of increase in temperature, has negative effects on the fisheries sector. It affects coral reefs resulting to poorer reef health and coral bleaching. Hotter water is deemed related to high sedimentation and high wave activity which affect seagrassess resulting to reduction of seagrass population. Sea level rise causes loss of arable lands. It amplifies soil salinity in low-lying agricultural lands and causes seawater intrusion into groundwater resources. It even results to coastal habitat drowning. An effect of climate change in water quality is anticipated to be in the form of decreased oxygen level which may result to fish kill. This comes along with ocean acidification which affects mariculture and reduces production

Climate Change and the Welfare of Farmers and Fisher Folks

Farmers and fisher folks that rely heavily on agriculture remain to be highly vulnerable to floods, drought and cyclones associated with climate change. Their lack of technical and financial capacity to withstand these impacts puts them gravely at risk.

Low income and high incidence of poverty in agriculture puts a lot of farmers and fishermen at high risk. In 2007, real wage rate of all farm workers is estimated to be equal to Php 121 a day (BAS, 2007). In 2006, an estimate of two million farmers and half-a-million fishermen still live in poverty (NSCB, 2006).

Most of the farmers and fishermen live in geographically vulnerable areas where natural hazards are common. This puts them at grave risk at times when calamity strikes. This is further aggravated by poor access to infrastructure, services, and education.

In the occurrence of extreme weather events, lack of alternative source of income puts a lot of farmers in peril. Coping with the damages brought by unforeseen calamities is difficult for agriculture dependent farmers who have no choice of switching to alternative sources of income.

Income of fishermen is expected to be affected by the decrease in fish production resulting from increase in temperature. Salt water intrusion and loss of arable lands in low lying coastal areas due to rising sea level are expected to create negative impact on the welfare of many agriculture dependent communities.

These various negative impacts of climate change contribute to the decline of productivity of farmers and adversely affect their welfare. Food insecurity might become a bigger problem and poor farmers will be severely affected by this. A lot will be at risk of hunger and malnutrition, which may further result to conflicts and many other societal problems.

Dealing with the Threats of Climate Change

Urgent responses should be undertaken in order to effectively address the approaching negative effects of climate change. Acting now will help minimize the potential damage climate change may inflict on the agricultural sector. At this point, priority should be given to the improvement of adaptive capacity of vulnerable sectors in the country. Mitigation measures in the forms of reduction GHG emissions and improved carbon sequestration should as well be done in parallel. Whether in the form of mitigation or adaptation measures, certain actions can be done and must be undertaken today in order to maintain food security in the country which is being threatened by climate change.

Adaptation

Implementation of adaptive measures helps greatly in the reduction of the adverse impacts of climate change. Through adaptation, farmers and fisher folks will be ready to cope with the uncertainties brought about by climate change. It prepares them in dealing with the changes in precipitation and hydrology, temperature, length of growing season and frequency of extreme weather which are all associated with climate change.

Through adaptation, resilience of the climate-sensitive sectors is increased as their vulnerability is reduced. Adaptation reduces the risks associated with climate variability and offers opportunities for growth and development. Changes in cropping patterns, improved farm management and use of drought-resistant and heat-resilient varieties are the most commonly used adaptation techniques in agriculture. These farm-level practices are helpful means of coping with climate variability which can be further enhanced through institutional support.

Mitigation

Mitigation measures are undertaken to make gradual, if not avoid, the phenomenon of climate change. These can be done by lowering greenhouse gas emissions and carbon sequestration. Mitigation measures commonly require huge investment and financial outlays with benefits that transcend political boundaries.

Reduction of GHG emission through enhancing fuel substitution can be done through harnessing cleaner and renewable energy resources, including biomass. In agriculture, contributing to the reduction of methane emissions while ensuring food security remains to be great challenge. Conservation of forest areas through forest management helps in carbon sequestration. Some mitigation measures help reduce soil erosion and degradation, and enhance water quality and availability while contributing in the global effort to prevent GHG concentration in the atmosphere from reaching dangerous level.