WMSU Research on Zambo Farmers’ Adaptation Practices to Combat Climate Change
May 5, 2017

With the increasing concerns on Climate Change and its impact on the environment, Western Mindanao State University- College of Forestry and Environmental Studies (WMSU-CFES) , through the initiative of concerned faculty members, conducted a research on Climate Change and Adaptation practices of selected Farmers in Zamboanga City to look into the farmers’ economic situation, document their actual farming management and proposed intervention to combat climate change. The research project which involved around a hundred famers residing in the east and west coast areas in the city was recently undertaken by the CFES faculty namely: Fredelino M. San Juan, Almudi G. Lukman, Ardel S. Barre and Noel I. Salatan. The Research Utilization Publication and Dissemination Office (RUPID) was instrumental to the publication of the completed study.

Climate change is a serious issue that threatens not only the environment but also the livelihood, food security and health of the large proportion of the country’s population. Projections on climate change shows that the global temperature has continuously increased. It has been reported that if the current levels of greenhouse gases productions will be left unattended, the average global temperature will increase by 1.4 c to 5.8 c between 1900 and 2100. Moreover, the effects of climate change have adverse impact on a developing country like the Philippines where natural disasters such as floods, droughts, typhoons, pests and diseases are becoming frequent. The urgency of the situation prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to sign the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) – a pact that mandates a global regulation of greenhouse gases emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance starting in the year 2020.

Furthermore climate change is predicted to bring an increase of temperatures and change in rainfall patterns. According to PAGASA, annual mean temperatures In all areas in the Philippines are expected to rise by 0.9 °C to 1.1 °C in 2020 and by 1.8 °C to 2.2 °C in 2050. To put those numbers correctly the Rice Research Institute (IRRI) based in Los Baños, Laguna reports that 1 degree increase in temperature can reduce rice yields for up to 10%. The extreme climate variations experienced in Mindanao specifically the Zamboanga Peninsula where frequent heavy downfalls and extreme temperature have occurred. For instance, in Zamboaga City which has a total population of 807, 129 (2010) census heavy rainfall had been recorded in the last two years with the average means of 123.11 cm to 123.95 cm (PAGASA, 2008) which resulted in rice field flooding and widespread of insect pests and golden snail infestations. This has caused menace to the rice plantations and huge loss to agricultural production. This infestation brought about a reduction of about 80% in rice production in Zamboanga City. A number of inhabitants from the upland are rice farmers whose subsistence and education of children depended on the income they get from farming. Thus the adverse impact of sudden change in climate disrupted their farming methods mostly cash crops production due to heavy rains at one time then long drought the next.

The findings of the study shows that most farmers in the east and west coast lowland areas of the city, Manicahan and Ayala in particular, use pesticides, fertilizers crop varieties to minimize climate change. And most farmers apply these farming methods on a trial and error basis. However because of experience through traditional farming method the respondents are able to choose the variety of crops to plant. According to the respondent farmers there are varieties of crops that are resistant to the changing weather. In the past farmers used to raise tomatoes belonging to the variety of “Diamante”. However due to extreme heat and heavy rains most farmers shifted to “Harabas” tomatoes, a variety that is tested to withstand climate change. And the kind of bell pepper recommended by the local farmers in this unstable climate is known as “majesty”. Furthermore most of the farmers have adapted crop rotation and mixed cropping practices which are the best strategies to counter the effects of climate change in agricultural production. The changing climate is linked with infestations and crop diseases. The study shows that there are crops that are being infested with insect pests and other with fungi. And thus as the need arises the farmers used pesticides and fungicides to suppress infestation; for greater survival of the crops and to ensure higher production rate. The technique is used to establish the resistance of crops to pests and fungi thereby eliminating the source of the problem. The practices of mixed cropping consisting mainly of crop rotation are adopted purposely to address the effects of climate change in some of the year by raising agricultural crops that are suitable and can withstand certain climactic conditions. Intercropping is intended to be applied under canopied areas by planting them with crops such as peanuts and sweet potatoes, underneath the stemmed crops such as tomatoes and eggplants. Multicropping is also applicable for the purpose of maximizing the available area with crops adaptable to certain climate.
These farming practices are consistent with the present administration’s advocacy on Climate Change. In the same vein that traditional crops planted by farmers should be endorsed by the Department of Agriculture Region IX and Zamboanga City as the farmers themselves can attest that it can withstand extreme weather conditions. Thus, various stakeholders in the city-farmers, barangay officials and DA Regional Office should lobby for local ordinances to revisit the plight of our farmers; to provide them with more technology and training in aid of better farming management and crop production techniques. (Story by: Dr. Lea E. Usman)