Agriculture and a Sick Climate
Environmentalist Dr. Angelina Galang talks about the effects of climate change to agriculture and suggests ways on how to mitigate the problem
The heat rages, the floods intensify, winters become more severe and tsunamis and strong earthquakes are damaging properties and lives in practically all corners of the world. What’s happening here? Nature is finally unleashing its wrath and world leaders are getting more alarmed.
Scientists say the causes of our sick climate are both natural and man-made. The natural causes of climate change are continental drift, volcanoes, the earth’s tilt, and ocean currents. On the other hand, our changes and wrong practices in land use pattern, deforestation, land clearing, agriculture and other activities like the dumping of tons of millions of garbage and smoke belching have led to a rise in the emission of carbon dioxide, contributing to the so called changes in greenhouse gas concentration.
We’ve recently attended the national consultation forum of the Climate Change Congress of the Philippines (CCCP), a coalition and multi sectoral, multi-disciplinary and community based organization headed by its convenor, Most Rev. Antonio L. Ledesma, SJ, DD Archbishop of Cagayan de Oro. The coalition is composed of the Climate Change Commission, Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Agrarian Reform and CCCP.
Of course we were there to learn more about the impact of the sick climate to agriculture and how the agribusiness community is coping with climate change. Based on the presentations made, we were able to gather the following:
•Rice production will largely be affected because of changes in temperature and rainfall. For every 10°C increase in temperature, rice yields will decrease by o.6 tons per hectare (IRRI);
•Because of changes in soil quality, there will be more occurrence of weed infestation and diseases;
•Competition of water will increase the pressure of Riceland and favor of adoption of cropping systems or practice that will consume less irrigation water;
•Global yield from marine fisheries maybe negatively affected by upsets in established reproductive patterns, irrigation routes and ecosystem relationships
It’s truly a concerted effort to manage the climate change problem and build a green economy. Speakers at the said congress said the agriculture community ought to adopt the integrated approach to promote sustainable agriculture, completion of CARP and transform small farmers into leaders.
We talked to Dr. Angelina Galang of Miriam College who also happens to be the lead convenor of Green Convergence for Safe Food, Healthy Environment and Sustainable Economy as she expounds on the dynamic tasks that the agribusiness community will face in coping with our sick climate. In a nutshell, Dr. Galang is saying in this challenging times, the way to deal with the problem is to go back to natural.
Could you expound in layman’s terms the effects of climate change to agriculture?
As everybody knows, floods are more frequent, hurricanes are becoming more intense and so is drought. That will mean therefore bad harvest and poverty and malnutrition. So what we are advocating is a return to the agriculture mode which is more resilient, which is our native variety and organic farming. The healthy soils which has the right ecology, the microorganisms, flora and fauna are actually good for climate change in the sense that it will absorb carbon dioxide. Whereas modern farming with fertilizers and pesticides, can cause damage to the soil and we use a lot of water. It’s bad for the atmosphere and adds to carbon dioxide.
Are you happy with DA’s performance in the way they address climate change?
I’m afraid not because they are promoting hybrids. They are promoting Genetically Modified Organisms (GM05). There is so much evidence building up that GMOs are bad for the health, bad for the soil, bad for the environment.
Why are GMOs bad for the health?
There have been epidemics in the States. GMO corn got into the nachos, cheese products and there was an epidemic of allergies, difficulty of breathing, swelling of mucous membranes, and then they traced it to Bt corn. They had to recall the products. So there is growing evidence that this is dangerous.
So what can you advice farmers then?
They have to go back to the native varieties. They are natural. The hybrids, they are produced in the laboratories. Number two, be very careful if they are being peddled with GMOs because even if they are subsidized now, and they are given pesticides after that, the full cost is what they have to bear. And once they get hooked on that, you have to buy fertilizers and pesticides all the time. It’s a spiral thing because they have to buy things. At first they will probably experience an increase in their harvest but it’s going to go down in the long run. In the end, their margins will be affected.
Are the farmers aware of climate change?
From what I hear and read, yes. And I guess from the conference it seems that they are aware. But it’s difficult for them to make that shift because if they are already into modern agriculture, the soil takes time to be reconditioned again. They have to be patient. They have to wait for a few seasons before their soils get reconditioned again. They have to look for bridging measures. And I think that’s what the government should do. To help them slowly shift to organic agriculture.
What insights did you get from this workshop on climate change?
The DAR seems very open. It’s really a concerted effort, this coping with climate change. The structures which we are presently obtaining, are difficult to change. And as one of the Bishops said, to address the issue of climate change, there should also be social change. They all go hand in hand. You also have to look at the social structures in order to bring about technological change.
By: Ronald G. Mangubat