By RALPH LAUREN ABAINZA
Tropical cyclones are often associated with damaging winds and heavy rains that impact communities, especially the agricultural sector. The seas surrounding the Philippines are considered the roughest due to the high number of tropical cyclones forming each year. However, the Philippine archipelago is not the lone country exposed to storms.
Farmers around the world have several ways to make ends meet despite shouldering the brunt of tropical cyclones yearly.
On the island country of Madagascar, farmers prepare clean water and harvest wild food before the arrival of a tropical cyclone. This practice arises from their typical problems with food and water supply after the storm. Furthermore, community networks among local farmers have been proven critical for providing food and rebuilding houses when disasters strike.
In Australia, it has been a practice among banana farmers to remove the plant canopy to reduce wind resistance before the arrival of a tropical cyclone. A case study in 2016 proved that the practice by local farmers was effective in maintaining the productivity of banana plants, resulting in early income recovery.
Farmers in Central America adapt to the frequent hurricane visits by planting more trees on farms to act as windbreakers, protecting their crops. Grain farmers also devised local-specific soil and water conservation practices, while coffee farmers primarily focus on fertilizer and pesticide management.
With techniques developed through centuries of rice farming in Japan, the farmers construct rice paddies that help in slowing the flow of water and reduce flood risks in nearby villages. Modern initiatives, like installing a simple runoff control device, increase the efficiency of paddies in storing water, preventing a rapid rise of water levels in rivers during heavy rainfall events.
In Puerto Rico, farmers intercrop their citrus trees with coffee trees to act as windbreakers. This practice enabled the rapid recovery of several farms after Hurricane ‘Maria’ devastated the country in 2017, according to a study.
The agricultural sector, especially in developing countries, is vulnerable to the severe impacts of tropical cyclones. Farmers, often using traditional backgrounds, have devised practices to cope with the impacts of storms throughout the years. However, given the context of climate change, institutional collaborations sprung up to make farming much more weather-resilient.