The Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) has created its own hub to spearhead the planning and implementation of climate change management in relation to rice farming: the Climate Change Center (CCC).

The center is tasked to conduct studies on understanding, impact assessment, and cushioning the effects of climate change on the rice industry. The Department of Agriculture (DA) has mandated all its attached agencies to mainstream climate change in the Department’s programs, plans, and budgets. Under last year’s memo, DA Secretary Proceso Alcala approved the Seven-Wide Programs on Climate Change (DA-SWPCC) to synchronize the bureaus’ and offices’ efforts in climate change adaptation and mitigation. “(The) effects of climate change can be felt now more than ever. Our major concern in the center is to explore various ways to help our farmers adapt to it,” said Dr. Ricardo Orge, CCC director and coping with climate change program lead.

Resilient Farmers

Orge emphasized the center’s vision for a climate-resilient farming system in which enough food will become available to every farming household, especially during adversities and calamities.

“A lot of studies show that resilience (in relation) to climate change can be best achieved through diversification of sources of income. Within the context of ensuring household food security and income, we want to develop a farming system that may withstand climate-related stresses and is highlydiversified but integrated to offer farmers alternative food sources and livelihoods,” Orge added.

The center’s manpower is composed of agronomists, plant pathologists, engineers, social scientists, communication specialists, and other rice researchers who study the recent climate patterns and its effects on rice farming. The CCC is expected to complement the goals of the institute’s major programs such as coping with climate change, farming without fossil fuel energy, and integrated rice-based agri-biosystems, among other projects that concern climate-resiliency.

New Knowledge

In its framework, the center’s program hopes to generate new knowledge and information on climate change in identified areas; develop climate change adaptation, rice technologies and strategies; and explore other sources of food and income. Specifically, the strategies will involve variety development, pest and nutrient management, devising decision support
tools, water harvesting and conservation, diversified/integrated farming, area mapping, and vulnerability studies.

“Despite the odds in our current weather conditions, we want to reassure our farmers that PhilRice will always be sensitive to addressing their needs through our strengthened R&D (research and development) efforts. Their welfare is always our priority,” Orge said.

On El Niño

At present, the PhilRice CCC team devised a master plan for immediate implementation to help farmers combat the impending threats of El Niño to rice production.

“We have to concretize our plans, not just write about them. In this initiative (El Niño assistance), PhilRice has started to do so and we believe we can still do more given with enough resources,” Orge said.

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s September 2014 issue.