The Heat is On

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According to the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), El Niño phenomenon will hit the country in the first quarter of this year 2019. Are we prepared for this dry spell? Freak weather patterns delivered by climate change upset planting season and hurt crop yields. A prolonged dry spell will surely adversely affect farm production and in turn, our food security.

The Department of Agriculture must prepare mitigation plans on the adverse impact of a prolonged dry spell on rice, corn and other agricultural harvests. It should streamline its budget to ensure that a fair share of the fund would go to programs meant to attain food security and sufficiency in the medium term despite climate change.

With the Philippines still mainly an agricultural country, El Niño’s impact will be hard as the country had experienced in the past. Advocates of sustainable agriculture like the Center for Bayanihan Economics are pitching for the shift to organic farming. The excessive use of chemical fertilizers in the farm contributes to global warming and climate change. By shifting from conventional farming to organic farming, greenhouse gas emissions will be lessened and help fight the adverse effects of climate change and weaken the El Niño phenomenon.

Organic agriculture can help to tackle climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. There is a direct correlation between nitrous oxide emissions and the amount of nitrogen fertilizer applied to agricultural land. Since organic farming does not allow the use of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, and focusing instead on establishing closed nutrient cycles, minimizing losses via runoff, volatilization and emissions; nitrogen levels on organic farms tend to be lower per hectare than on conventional farms.

Conventional agriculture uses vast quantities of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. It takes significant amounts of energy to manufacture these chemicals. Organic agriculture minimizes energy consumption by 30-70% per unit of land by eliminating the energy required to manufacture synthetic fertilizers, and by using internal farm inputs, thus reducing fuel used for transportation.

Organic agriculture can also help combat global warming by storing carbon in the soil. Management practices used by organic agriculture (e.g. minimum tillage, returning crop residues to the soil, the use of cover crops and rotations, and the greater integration of nitrogen fixing legumes) increase the return of carbon to the soil. This raises productivity and favors carbon storage, which means more carbon stored in the soil, less carbon in the atmosphere.

As the climate changes, farmers are facing many challenges – more unpredictable rains, soil degradation, and new or different pests and diseases. Organic agriculture helps farmers adapt to climate change because high soil organic matter content and soil cover help to prevent nutrient and water loss. This makes soils more resilient to floods, droughts and land degradation processes.

The people working in organic food systems also work hard to preserve seed and crop diversity. This increases crop resistance to pests and disease. Maintaining this diversity also helps farmers evolve new cropping systems to adapt to climatic changes.

Overall, organic enables farmers to minimize risk, as a result of stable agro-ecosystems and yields, and lower production costs that contribute to a sustainable climate-friendly production system that delivers enough food.

Reference: IFOAM on climate change mitigation

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