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No longer we are spared from irking events during tropical storms: immobile automobile stuck in the urban traffic jam and soaked socks of exhausted employees on their way home. What we don’t easily realize is that aside from these microcosm annoyances, the food we eat, most especially rice, are equally affected by such calamities.

On a macro level, storms connect common folks’ predicaments to the country’s rice security. Vis-à-vis the climate-related stories in the Philippines, relevant stories from approximately 1,500km to its west are also up for sharing.

Recently, Dr. Bui Tan Yen, Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) Officer, talked about Climate-Smart Risk Mapping and Adaptation Planning (CS MAP) as a tool in adaptation planning in Vietnam Mekong Delta River (MDR).

 

Similar histories

A 2018 CCAFS report stated that CS MAP was crafted in response to the 2016 El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) when necessary agricultural adjustments were executed despite the early warnings given. The event vastly affected the country’s agricultural production.

For Filipinos, this event would sound familiar. Back in 2013, similar plot made headlines when tropical storm “Yolanda” hit the country. Warnings of the projected lashing effects were disseminated through different media; in fact, the then-president of the Philippines, Benigno S. Aquino III, delivered a television primetime advisory the day before Yolanda landed the country. However, many analyses said the early warnings lacked supplement of ground mobilization too due to lack of understanding of what ‘storm surge’ means.

Along with the casualties, Yolanda also brought short-term and long-term damages in terms of agriculture, similar to how ENSO affected Vietnam in 2016. For instance, a November 28, 2013 situation report of NDRRMC, as cited by an Asian Development Bank publication, shows that the typhoon incurred P11 billion damage in the Philippine agriculture. With such vulnerabilities, mapping site-specific risks could come very handy.

 

Vietnam’s CS MAP

In MDR, Yen said the major risks they look out for are drought, salinity intrusion, and flooding. Interestingly, substantial part of their CS MAP innovations involves participatory approach, specifically with the following steps:

  • Identify climate-related risks
  • Create risk level boundary using technical data (like forecasts) and local knowledge
  • Propose adaptive plans (like adjusting the cropping calendar)
  • Fine tune and verify adaptive plans (by meeting relevant stakeholders)
  • Integrate adaptive plans into ecological zone and regional plan

 

Solutions from the ground

The steps yielded outputs like risk maps and adaptation plans. Jovino L. De Dios, Philippine Rice Information System (PRISM) Unit Head, remarked that CS MAP is more than just a map but it is also a process. Yen also emphasized that it is important that the proposed adaptive plans are grounded rather than coming from an outsider.

These local insights, on the other hand, are supplemented by technical data from sources like hydro-meteorological centers for long-term and short-term forecasts, and research centers for other relevant technical data.

Combining the local knowledge and technical data, stakeholders would define the risk levels to be included in CS MAP specific to their province. CCAFS qualify “risk” as rice production loss due to flooding or salinity intrusion juxtaposed to the current status of natural resources, infrastructure, and management practices.

With participatory approach, it would be difficult to see how folks on the ground will misunderstand future warnings as they themselves defined the risks and made the adaptation plans first hand.

 

Outcomes and potentials

CS MAP was pilot tested in 2016 and initial results include implementation of the adaptive plans in some MDR provinces. Yen also mentioned a case where CS MAP adaptation plan was incorporated in the provincial agricultural plan. CS MAP’s potential, meanwhile, would include more integrated and wider audience reached through an interdisciplinary approach.

With the recent housing of PRISM at PhilRice, the exchanges of its researchers with Yen is significant and can affect each other’s stories on mapping for rice farming.

 

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Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) is a government corporate entity attached to the Department of Agriculture created through Executive Order 1061 on 5 November 1985 (as amended) to help develop high-yielding and cost-reducing technologies so farmers can produce enough rice for all Filipinos.

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Philippine Rice Research Institute