July 16, 2024

Mountain Province is working on the establishment of a climate field school, a first of its kind in the region, which will employ the locality’s traditional practices and highlight the role of women, LGBTQ+, senior citizens, children, indigenous peoples, and other vulnerable groups as a way of reducing and mitigating the effects of climate change to its communities that largely depend on agriculture and are highly susceptible to changes in climate.

The “Mountain Province Climate Field School for Farmers” (MPCFSF) project has been conceptualized to provide an agricultural support system to the farmers to increase their adaptive capacity and resilience, and optimize adaptation opportunities for them from the impacts of climate change.

According to the project proposal of the province recently approved for funding under the People’s Survival Fund (PSF), the facility is a climate change adaptation, knowledge-sharing, and hands-on learning center for farmers, students, researchers, and other stakeholders through its different facilities.

Its goal is to increase yields of the agriculture and fisheries sectors through the farmers’ field school and mitigate the risks of climate change through good agricultural practices and sustainable resource management.

It aims to provide and strengthen long-term agricultural support to farmer/fisher folk beneficiaries and enhance early warning system for the agricultural sector through the establishment of a green designed, two-story knowledge-sharing and hands-on learning center.

It is expected to increase the adaptive capacity and resilience of farmer/fisher folk beneficiaries by increasing and/or diversifying crops and fisheries production; and intensify advocacy on climate change adaptation and agriculture while increasing knowledge of farmer/fisher folk beneficiaries on best agricultural practices and sustainable resources management.

The climate field school will be located at the College of Agriculture of the Mountain Province State Polytechnic College in Bacarri, Paracelis and designed to also provide opportunities especially for vulnerable sectors such as women, students, senior citizens, LGBTQ+ individuals, and IPs of the province.

The MPCFSF project stemmed from the climate lens of Pagasa on Mountain Province, which calls attention on the effects of climate change to the province and its resources.

“The projections, scenarios, and trends of the impacts of climate change do not bode well for the future of the agricultural sector in the province. Thousands of farmers will be affected and this will affect the province’s food supply. Food competition will be the norm as other provinces also will be looking outside their jurisdictions for food but the problem is that there is no excess food as all provinces are in short supply of food,” the provincial government said in its proposal.

Pagasa’s lens on the province revealed an increasing temperature for 2020 and 2050 at 1.10 degrees Celsius and 2.10 degrees Celsius, respectively, stating this scenario will affect the various systems in the province.

“Under crop production system, the impacts for increased rainfall and temperature means there will be reduction of farmer’s income because of diminished harvest or poorer quality of agricultural products. Water resources and fishery production systems will also be impacted because of water quality issues and water competition. Also, farmer’s income will be reduced because of low yield from their fish ponds,” the project proposal said, quoting the cited study.

Also, in the 2022 Risk Assessment Report of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources under the Risk Resiliency Program of the Cabinet Cluster on Climate Change Adaptation, Mitigation, and Disaster Risk Reduction, Mountain Province is classified as a “very high risk area” in terms of susceptibility to multiple climate risks such as increase in temperature/decrease in rainfall, increase in rainfall, and increase in intensity of tropical cyclones.

With this, the provincial government stated there will be an increase in landslide and flooding risks, drought and water shortage risks, thus affecting the population and the agriculture sector.

A total of 33,592.8 hectares of land devoted to annual crops and 2,106.38 hectares devoted to perennial crops in the province will be affected by landslide and flooding.

The same report under the banner of resilience roadmap also pointed out in order to strengthen the adaptive capacity of the vulnerable communities, they recommended, among others, agricultural support and enhancing early warning system as a strategy to reduce risk and mitigate climate change impact.

It added that a climate field school is one way of reducing and mitigating effects of climate variability.

In another local study on climate risk vulnerability assessment that looks into the hazard index of the different local government units in the province, Paracelis is the most exposed to climate change induced hazards. Tropical cyclones and its epiphenomena such as flood and drought are more prevalent in Paracelis compared to other towns.

The occurrence of landslides is more prevalent in Besao, Sagada, Sabangan, Sadanga, Barlig, and Natonin.

Data from the 2022 Provincial Agricultural Profile showed there are 21,501 farmers (crop and livestock) and 5,433 registered fisher folks in the province. There are also organic farmers organized into 24 organizations.

“Mountain Province depends on farmers and they are the ones maintaining food sufficiency of our major crops except chicken and tilapia which has 17.49 percent and 6.98 percent sufficiency levels, respectively. All the major crops such as rice, corn, root crops, leafy, fruit and root vegetables, fruits, pork, beef and carabeef far exceeded the 100 percent sufficiency level to support domestic requirements,” the proposal stated.

The climate field school will have an automated weather station to serve as an early warning system where daily weather events and patterns derived from it shall be the basis for agricultural planning and decision-making.

The dashboard for the weather data from the AWS shall be installed at the Operations Center of Mountain Province Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, which has the capability to monitor and analyze data.

The facility will be all-inclusive, providing opportunities for all while it tackles the impacts of climate change.

Mountain Province women, who represent a significant percentage of the province’s population and are frequently household decision-makers, will benefit from the establishment of the facility through targeted agricultural trainings designed to strengthen their responsibilities in sustainable agriculture and climate change adaptation.

It will also create opportunities for employment and empowerment, which can lead to improved household income and resilience against climate-related risks.

The project also respects and incorporates IPs’ rich traditional knowledge, validating their unique contributions to conservation and sustainability.

It will provide opportunities for their active participation, thereby preserving their traditional agricultural practices and cultural heritage.

The project also ensures the LGBTQ+ community’s inclusion and non-discrimination as they will have equal access to all project benefits, including training, employment, and decision-making roles. This approach not only contributes to their financial stability but also promotes social inclusion and equality.

Along with training, empowerment, and economic opportunities, the MPCFSF will prioritize the construction of gender-inclusive facilities. It will be fully furnished with all-gender restrooms, ensuring the facility is accessible and accommodating to all individuals, including those who identify as LGBTQ+.

A breastfeeding room will also be established to support nursing mothers, affirming their rights and promoting the health benefits of lactation for infants, and indicating the awareness of the unique needs of women, particularly those with young children, and ensures they can participate fully in the project’s activities while maintaining their childcare responsibilities.

A child-minding room will also be created which will provide a safe and engaging environment for children while their parents or caregivers are involved in project activities.

The provincial government said the MPCFSF will not only enable more adults to participate in the project, but also ensures children are introduced to the community’s agricultural practices, inspiring the next generation of environmentally conscious citizens.

The MPCFSF will be the first facility of its kind in the region that provides knowledge-sharing and hands-on learning center dedicated to support the agriculture sector of the province, increasing income of farmers and providing alternative livelihood in farming will increase community resilience in the wake of climate change.

The province had requested a P273.03 million financing from PSF and a counterpart of P45.9M to undertake the project from 2024 to 2027.

The PSF, created under Republic Act 10174, is a long-term finance stream enabling the government to effectively address climate change.

The benefits derived from the project will be in support of the outcomes of the Cordillera Regional Development Plan 2023-2028, for which the project earned the support of the Regional Development Council. – Hanna C. Lacsamana