Hardly predictable and extreme weather changes can often spell disaster for the uninformed and unprepared. This holds particularly true for Filipino farmers and agriculture-based enterprises where losses due to long periods of drought, violent typhoons, or major shifts in weather condition can be devastating to an entity’s supply chain, livelihoods, and the country’s food security.
Molding climate change-conscious agriculture entrepreneurs
Taking notice of the impact of climate change (CC) on agribusiness, the College of Economics and Management (CEM) of UP Los Baños (UPLB) has recently started to incorporate CC adaptation in its curricular offerings. Dr. Dinah Pura T. Depositario, chair of the CEM’s Department of Agribusiness Management and Entrepreneurship says they are encouraging B.S. in Agribusiness Management majors to conduct research on the effects of CC on agri-enterprises as well as their adaptation strategies.
Its Department of Economics has also proposed to integrate a course on the economics of CC and adaptation into its revised curriculum expected to be implemented by 2018.
CEM further plans to actively advocate for the adoption of CC adaptation strategies through its UP Center for Agribusiness Entrepreneurship (UP ACE), which aims to “develop a new generation of farmers and agri-entrepreneurs to accelerate their integration in the market-driven economy and enhance their competitiveness in the Asia-Pacific region”. UP ACE is to capacitate farmers and agri-entrepreneurs in terms of improved technical and management skills and become more climate change-resilient, through trainings and other forms of assistance.
Opportunity in adversity
Depositario found in her 2015 research that first-hand experience with climate-change adversities drives agri-enterprises to be innovative in their adaptation strategies. Ato Belen’s Farm located in San Pablo City, Laguna attests to this finding.
Brian Amante Belen, co-owner of the Farm and a B.S. in Agribusiness Management graduate of CEM explains, “Climate change has been part of our lives ever since I can remember. It was awfully felt in 2006 when Milenyo struck the farm, when our trees were twisted and seedlings soaked in water. It took years to grow trees again, so while waiting for newly planted fruit trees to be productive, we decided to venture in vegetable production.”
Typhoon Glenda in 2014, which damaged 90% of the farm worth about P3 M, also taught them hard lessons. Their farm’s adaptation strategies now include the installation of low tunnels (also known as net hoops or shade tunnels) and concrete dividers inside the greenhouses, the use of the multiple-root-stock grafting technique that makes seedlings sturdier during typhoons, and the adoption of heat-tolerant varieties.
Brian also put up a small piggery and poultry to back them up while fruits and vegetables were off-season. They produced their own farming inputs such as vermicompost, Effective Microorganisms (EM), and Fish Emulsion Concentrate. They processed foods such as pickled papayas and chili paste.
Belen, who is a faculty member in Management and Development Studies at the UP Open University, trains resource-poor farmers in the San Pablo area. Small to medium-scale enterprises practicing ecologically sound farming like Ato Belen’s Farm have employed practical CC adaptation strategies, which the whole agribusiness sector can eventually learn lessons from.
“I see the need for small to even large enterprises to consciously incorporate climate change in their overall business strategies. Present adaptation is concentrated on their operations aspects such as weather protection systems and production practices and adjustments. They can try financial management strategies (e.g., crop or livestock insurance) and technological developments (adoption of drought- and pest-resilient varieties). The responses of enterprises to climate change impacts on their business operations must not remain merely reactive,” Depositario stresses.
Depositario also assured that the academe still has a lot to offer. As the ill effects of climate change in our country escalate, the technical skills of future agripreneurs need to be honed through training to make them innovative all the more.