LOCAL government officials have called on the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to come up with a flexible fund for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation plans instead of pushing nationally designed projects that may not always be applicable in some parts of the country.
At a conference organized by the League of Organic Agriculture Municipalities (LOAM) and non-government organization Rice Watch and Action Network (R1), participating LGUs also urged Pagasa (Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration) to help train local government personnel on disaster response.
They suggested that Pagasa mobilize its regional staff and offices to work with Municipal Weather and Climate Information Centers and provide training to concerned LGU staff on the nature, interpretation and applications of weather and climate information generated.
“Mobilizing local government resources will not be enough, that’s why we need the support of national government agencies. LGUs have a great responsibility, being the first responders to disasters, community preparedness and climate change adaptation as mandated under the laws on disaster risk reduction and climate change,” said Mayor Jun Pacalioga of Dumingag, Zamboanga del Sur and current president of LOAM.
“Our people, especially the farmers, fishers and rural women, will have a better chance to defend their right and access to sustainable livelihood, safe and sound environment if we are going to work together,” Pacalioga added.
He said it was critical that LGUs agree and provide leadership on DRR and climate change adaptation (CCA) through a science-based analysis of the multiple hazards and vulnerability of communities.
Climate resiliency schools
LOAM and R1 are implementing Climate-resiliency Field Schools (CrFS) in cooperation with Pagasa to build the capacity of the LGUs to reduce the risks brought about by disasters and help the agriculture sector adapt to the hazards posed by extreme weather events such as typhoons, floods and drought.
The conference, held in Quezon City, was attended by 43 local government units that have already adopted the CrFS.
In the exhibit during the conference, the LGUs showcased how CrFS was able to help them in DRR and CCA and exchange of benefits and lessons among the participants is expected to enrich their experiences.
R1 started its partnership with Pagasa in 2011 to provide training to farmers on local climate and weather data-gathering. The information was used to devise appropriate farming systems and technology that will mitigate the hazards caused by disasters.
This was how the CrFS was born, beginning with only three LGUs— Gerona, Tarlac; Irosin, Sorsogon; and Tubigon, Bohol. The program has now ballooned to 32 adopters and they participated in the conference.
“We need to pro-actively review our DRR and CCA plans to ensure these are useful and appropriate in addressing climate change and vulnerabilities,” said Aurora Regalado, lead convenor of R1.
Regalado said all these climate hazards are real threats and pose an enormous burden upon farmers, fisherfolk, rural women and their communities.
Risks to poor greatest
“The risks to the poor are the greatest, so we need to improve their ability to respond to these challenges,” she added.
She noted that almost 10 million poor farmers, landless workers and fishers are in the Registry System of Basic Sectors in Agriculture and Fisheries and, based on the country’s historical record on disasters, the agriculture sector including fishery suffered the most damage and losses.
The cooperation framework adopted by the conference participants includes integrating CCA and DRR in the different local development sector plans, particularly for agriculture and fishery, by undertaking hazard, vulnerability and risks assessment and understanding how climate change scenarios and projections will affect the local community.
The framework also calls for the creation of a functioning Municipal DRR Management Office with staff and budgetary support and established emergency protocols down to the barangay/community level.
It also suggests the establishment of an early warning system to inform farmers, fishers and communities of the daily weather, weekly and seasonal climate risks to their farms, livelihood, and health and building Municipal Weather and Climate Information Centers.
The participants also pushed for support programs such as CrFS to diversify the sources of income and livelihood and the food of households and the community as a whole.
Samples of these programs include the use of sustainable, climate appropriate, agro-ecological farming systems versus extensive use of fossil based fertilizers; support community enterprises and help the community sell their products using disaster response or disaster relief efforts as marketing peg; and promote simple harvesting of rainwater among households to support home gardens and or home-based livestock production especially in areas highly vulnerable to low rainfall, like coastal and island communities.
“The national government should also look into providing insurance to farmers as a social protection mechanism in case of extreme events and in case of other family emergencies; and promote preventive health and a healthy organic lifestyle to ensure the health and well-being of our human resource,” Regalado said.