Who can predict the rain?



It’s worrisome that even experts can no longer predict the weather for the farmers’ benefit and guidance.

When I got the chance to visit Brazil some six years ago and checked out their coffee labs, it was memorable to see how they predict weather conditions. They had charts of rainfall properly mapped out and scientists telling farmers when to plant their coffee to get best results.

This was before Google maps and Google weather became accessible. The maps in Brazil charted the places, hills and exact locations and the weather patterns affecting them.

Today, this may not be so. With the invitation of Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Undersecretary Nora Terrado, we recently visited the Nestle Lipa Integrated Coffee Center (LICC) in Batangas and I met a familiar face, Art Baria, Nestle’s head of Agro services along with the Nestle CEO Jacques Reber and Swiss Ambassador Andrea Reichlin.

Art told me that even they can no longer predict the weather. “A tree whose fruits were harvested just last February is flowering again! This is like the behavior of coffee in Mindanao,” he said as we were in Lipa City, Batangas.

Mindanao and Luzon have different weather patterns and different harvest seasons. I was always told that the harvest goes from South to North, and in the Philippines we harvest first in Mindanao, next in Visayas and finally in Luzon. But not anymore.

So as they say, climate change is causing all these disruptions in agriculture. In our humble little farm, it is either very hot (at 500 meters elevation) or very wet when it rains.

The vegetables are stunted or burned under the hot sun. When the rains come, our plots get flooded and we end up with no harvest of our leafy vegetables.

The season with the least disruption of weather is getting unpredictable. So how will our farmers be sustainable? What can we do to mitigate the effects of climate change?

The answer lies in preserving what Nature taught us: biodiversity.

So with coffee, one idea is to create an environment where bees can thrive so they can help in pollination. I was amazed that endemic local “stingless” bees can be propagated.
Further, for a little trivia, these local bees can endure many queens in one colony.

European bees are different. The queens kill each other so it’s “survival of the fittest” and the Queen Bee is just one. The local bees seem to be more democratic than autocratic.

Besides helping pollinate, bees also produce precious honey and propolis, both healthy products to add to one’s daily regimen.

Shade trees
We need to plant coconut with coffee, or any agroforestry species that can shade the coffee while it grows to a height that is optimum for hand picking or harvesting. Coffee needs only 50% of sunlight so shade trees are best, and makes the sugars in the coffee develop better as well.

Sustainable practices
Using farm debris to feed the African Nightcrawler worm variety allows the farmer to convert farm waste to organic fertilizer. Even sludge can be tried and if the worms consume them, you will hardly have anymore waste in your processing plant and in your farm as well. Everything just goes back to Nature and the farm becomes sustainable—producing its own fertilizer and getting rid of farm waste.

Meanwhile, drink a lot of water, and stay cool. The weather is super hot outside and no amount of protection like hats and umbrellas will make one stand the scorching heat
especially from 10 am onwards.

Schedule your activities so you need not be exposed to the elements at the most dangerous times like high noon. Wear cool clothes that breathe like cotton and linen. The worst is to wear polyester—it’s like wearing a plastic bag!

And last but not the least . . . pray for better weather.

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(Chit Juan is a founder and owner of ECHOStore sustainable lifestyle, ECHOmarket sustainable farms and ECHOcafe in Serendra, Salcedo Village, Podium, Centris QC mall, Davao, Cebu City, Iloilo and Antipolo City. She also is President of the Women’s Business Council of the Philippines and President of the Philippine Coffee Board Inc., two non-profits close to her heart. She often speaks to corporates and NGOs on sustainability, women empowerment, and coffee. You can follow her on twitter.com/chitjuan or find her on facebook:Pacita “Chit” Juan. Email her at puj@echostore.ph.)


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