El Niño may have brought the threat of dry spells and water scarcity, but the farmers’ resilience has risen to the occasion. Rather than succumbing to adversity, they have embraced the challenge as an opportunity to learn new techniques and innovative practices to combat the phenomenon’s effects while getting additional income.

By practicing a water-saving technology called Alternate Wetting and Drying (AWD), farmers in Gabaldon, Science City of Muñoz, Nueva Ecija, are gaining extra income from carbon credits.

One of the most significant advancements brought about by El Niño was the implementation of Alternate Wetting and Drying (AWD) technology. Initiated in 2000 by the DA-Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), this technology was designed to address farmers’ irrigation needs during periods of water scarcity.

AWD is a method that involves irrigating crops at intervals, allowing the soil to dry out adequately at the right stage of plant growth. This approach significantly reduces the amount of water needed for irrigation, ensuring that farmers at the end of the irrigation system receive sufficient water. Observation wells are used to monitor the soil’s water level.

By alternating wet and dry periods in their rice fields, farmers can conserve water and reduce methane emissions. As a result, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has approved this technology as a method for generating carbon credits. This allows farmers in the Philippines, through Ostrom Climate Solutions Inc., to save water and earn income.

In January, PhilRice hosted the project launch and signed a Memorandum of Agreement for the Climate-Smart Rice Project in the Upper Pampanga River Integrated Irrigation Systems (UPRIIS). This agreement, between Ostrom Climate Solutions Inc. President and CEO, Phil Cull, and three Philippine-based Irrigators Associations, Inc., enables Nueva Ecija farmers to profit from practicing AWD and earn carbon credit savings.

Nestor L. Parpados, chair of the Board of Trustees of Kasangga ng Rang-ay Irrigators’ Association Incorporated, shared his experience with water management in their rice fields before they adopted AWD. 

“Before, we promptly fixed small cracks in the dikes that served as a sort of irrigation for us, especially during drought periods. This was to ensure that we had enough water supply,” he said.

With the adoption of AWD, water management has become much easier for Nestor and his fellow farmers. They can now determine when it’s necessary to irrigate, and the presence of an irrigation system provides additional assistance. 

“Before, my best harvest during the dry season would only reach a little over 7t/ha. With AWD and improved farm practices, I’ve harvested 11/tha from my hybrid rice,” he said.

In addition to the increased yield, Nestor anticipates an additional income source through the Climate-Smart Rice Project with the cash incentive he can gain from AWD’s carbon credit savings.

Dr. Eduardo Jimmy P. Quilang, PhilRice deputy executive director, said that farmers like Nestor are proof that opportunities are still available even during difficult climatic conditions. 

“These situations motivate our farmers to learn new technologies making them better in the long run,” he said.

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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