Greenpeace on Monday urged Philippines Vice President Jejomar Binay to support long-term climate resiliency solutions in agriculture, saying providing hybrid rice to farmers impacted by Typhoon Lando was a stop-gap measure that would not protect the nation from future disasters.
Greenpeace said Binay and the Department of Agriculture (DA) - which has already distributed hybrid seeds to impacted farmers - should rethink their response plans. Hybrid rice will worsen the indebtedness of farmers and still presents a food security risk due to the worsening El Nino and impact of flooding on Luzon soils.
“Binay and the DA’s approach to the typhoon response is a good opening offer, but falls short of providing a long-term solution. Our farmers are facing their biggest challenge ever – how to adapt to a changing climate that will increasingly threaten our nation with stronger typhoons and drought. They need support, but support that will build long-term resiliency,” said Leonora Lava, Sr. Ecological Agriculture Campaigner for Greenpeace Philippines.
“Hybrid rice can lead to more food insecurity. While farmers in Luzon can use it to replant their rice now, they’ll need enough water for irrigation and a substantial amount of synthetic chemical inputs because hybrid rice is designed for optimal performance under such conditions. As the El Nino is forecast to worsen, Binay could be resigning our farmers to another round of crop failure because hybrid rice is not designed for drought resistance.”
“Worse, farmers cannot save hybrid rice seeds and expect the same performance in the next season, forcing them to buy seeds again for next season when they are already facing financial stress. Currently, corporations such as SL Agritech and Bayer dominate the hybrid rice seed market. For long-term food security, we should not consign our farmers to the corporate control of our food system, instead we should equip them to help themselves and their neighbors.”
Although the El Nino is forecast to continue into 2016, news reports also suggest Typhoon Lando refilled dams needed for irrigation but that the rich top soil in central Luzon was washed away, complicating disaster response efforts.
In the run-up to the national elections in May 2016, Greenpeace said presidential candidates must present a roadmap to food security and outline how he plans to build agricultural resiliency to typhoons, El Nino and other natural disasters. A national food policy is needed and should be included in the electoral agenda of all presidential candidates.
Binay and other presidential hopefuls should also support the roll-out of climate resiliency field schools to teach farmers how to cope with extreme weather. These field schools can be established in combination with localized weather forecasts that form part of an early warning system for farmers.
“Chemical and pesticide-free ecological agriculture conserves and utilizes farm diversity and promotes food diversity and diets. It is the only long-term solution that will provide Filipinos with food nutrition and security. Government support for ecological agriculture will provide the Philippines with climate resiliency,” Leonora Lava added.