AFTER the current El Niño, is our agriculture sector ready for La Niña?
Extreme weather events pose risks in the growth of this sector and in programs addressing poverty. Climate change makes poverty reduction more difficult, further erode food security, and prolong existing and create new poverty traps.
The dismal growth in agriculture is partly due to disasters, particularly droughts and typhoons. It’s high time the government improve public investments in agriculture such as irrigation and pouring more funds in research and development.
We have long warned of the ill-effects of disasters and climate change to the country’s rice and crop production because both strong typhoons and droughts affect the agriculture sector. Past experiences have proven this fact. Typhoons, floods and droughts from 1970 to 1990 resulted in an 82.4 percent loss in total Philippine rice production; while the El Niño-related drought experienced in the country from 1990 to 2003 was estimated to have caused US$ 370 million in damages to agriculture.
The country’s agricultural adaptation program must ensure more investments in agricultural research and infrastructure, improved water governance and land use policies, better forecasting tools and early warning systems, a strengthened extension system that will assist farmers to achieve economic diversification, and access to credit and crop insurance to make significant improvements in the country’s food security goals.
Disasters are greatly felt by the poor and hungry because the effects are magnified in their life. For many Filipinos, every single day of work is synonymous to survival. When impassable roads due to heavy downpour prevent a daily wage earner from going to work, it would mean no earnings for the day, no food on the table.
The government must be more proactive with its disaster resilience and climate change adaptation programs. The war against poverty will be much harder if disaster vulnerability remains unaddressed.