Amidst Crisis, Farmer-Scientist group launch Climate-Resilient Rice Varieties

September 14, 2019

by MASIPAG National Office

Sta. Rosa, Nueva Ecija – In time of worsening crises confronting Philippine agriculture, a farmer-scientist network has shown that adaptation and mitigation to climate change can be achieved through agroecology and sustainable agriculture. 

MASIPAG unveiled its collection of rice varieties that are able to withstand the manifestations of climate change in agriculture such as drought, flooding, and saltwater intrusion. As extreme weather events exacerbate pest and diseases attacks, MASIPAG likewise has identified and developed pest and disease tolerant rice varieties. The climate change resilient (CCR) rice varieties are collection of improved traditional rice varieties and those bred and developed by MASIPAG farmer-breeders.  

“Billions of pesos worth of agricultural damages are wrought by these climate disasters, crippling our food production and making our farmers poorer than ever.” said Cris Panerio, National Coordinator. “Agriculture is being considered as among the causes of high greenhouse gases (GHGs) emission, but it is, in fact the industrial mono-cropped and chemical-based agriculture system that contributes to climate change.”

“Meanwhile, farming practices by small-scale subsistence farmers have proven to be healthier, cheaper, and resilient to climate change.” 

In its more than 30 years, MASIPAG has collected more than 2,000 rice cultivars and with its programs on rice breeding and seed improvement, was able to identify 18 drought-tolerant, 12 flood-tolerant, 20  salt-water tolerant and 24 pest and disease tolerant varieties.

Panerio added that the use of these is among the adaptation strategies to climate change that small-scale farmers are able to do in their own communities. The practice of seed-saving and seedbanking ensures that farmers and their communities have reliable sources of rice seeds that are of good quality.

MASIPAG likewise promotes the diversification and integration of farms, including planting of survival crops such as root crops, which reduces the risk of vulnerabilities of the farmers and their household and ensuring a steady source of food from their crops and livestock. 

Aside from adaptation, MASIPAG’s sustainable agriculture programs are also effective in mitigating the impacts of climate change. The main culprit of GHGs in agriculture comes from chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Since MASIPAG farmers do not use chemical inputs in their rice production, they are able to avoid contributing to the emission of carbon dioxide, one of the four GHGs that affect climate change.

“Our contribution to the mitigation of climate change will be more significant if we can convince the rice farmers in the country to stop using chemical fertilizers,” said Dr. Chito Medina, environmental scientist and member of MASIPAG.  

Rodolfo Cortez, farmer leader from Negros said “More than technologies, strong farmers’ organization are key for survival. When farmers are organized, we can quickly and efficiently respond to any crisis that our communities face be it natural or man-made.” 

Rice Tariffication and Liberalization

Aside from climate change resilience, MASIPAG farmer’s practices have helped cushion the impact of plummeting prices of palay as Filipino rice farmers are marred by Rice Liberalization Law (RA 11203). Organic and sustainable farming system reduces the cost of production while maintaining better price of produce. 

MASIPAG Farmer leader Leody Velayo stressed,  “While we are able to cope with the increasing costs of production and worsening rice prices, we express our dissent on Rice Liberalization Law. It is ironic that we who feed the nation, are getting hungry with this anti-farmer policy. We express solidarity to fellow Filipino rice farmers who stand firm to repeal the Rice Tariffication and Liberalization Law (RA 11203). ” 

MASIPAG also called to support the plight of Filipino farmers by patronizing locally produced rice and participate in the campaign for safe, sufficient and sustainable agriculture. #