In the time of Climate Change: Are We Food and Water Secure?

Climate change is not coming, it is here  

The Center for Philippine Futuristics held a one-day conference on the effects of climate change on food and water sustainability, its challenges and prospects. The lasting impression one can gather from the conference is that the effect of climate change to food is lower yield in production. However, this assumes that the variables for production remains at status quo or without new technologies or measures.

Climate change is not coming, it is here, according to Dr. William Dar. The next step is to mitigate its effects and adapt. Such a recourse is crucial, he says, since climate change is a major factor affecting agriculture. This is because the challenge of food security is directly related to water availability/supply and the latter is negatively impacted by climate change. He elaborates that water supply is affected by numerous factors connected with the climate. They are extreme weather events, increase in temperature, decrease in rainfall, prolonged dry spell or on the other hand, above normal rainfall. Negative effects include reduced stream flow and declining ground water level. He notes that the immediate consequence of the latter is insufficient water for irrigation.

 Dr. Felino Lansigan, presents a grimmer picture with forecast data from Pag-asa that in 2020 and 2050, warm months will become hotter, dry seasons will become drier and the wet season will become wetter. He also presented a variance and mean analysis of climate change through a bell curve. The analysis revealed that there is less change for cold weather and substantial change for hot weather. These days, there is more hot weather and there is more record hot weather. These changes in climate, he notes, causes accelerated soil erosion and soil loss as well as affects hydrology or water of the area. For the latter, it affects its distribution as well as changes water processes. Palpably, Dr. Lansigan shares that the elements of the water cycle have been impacted and it follows that agriculture is affected.
       
Some solutions from Dr. Dar are: use water resources efficiently, plant high value crops, tap surface and ground water, recycle waste water and develop smart commodities and technologies. Meanwhile, Dr. Lansigan suggests several, from using sustainable agro-forestry, climate smart agriculture, calamity support fund, rainwater harvesting through fish and crop production, rationalizing land use plans that incorporate nature hazards and climate risk to name a few. He also suggests that land suitability forecast maps should be used as a guide. It forecasts which crops are best suited for a certain area factoring in climate changes. He says it is a program that is run using a computer and very economical to produce.

From the perspective of Professor Teresita Borromeo, gene/seed banking should be supported since it could help mitigate the effects of climate change. She says that gene banking ensures genetic diversity of plants. This genetic material could be used to improve plant varieties to respond to climate changes. These climate change resilient crops would in turn produce an increase in yield. She emphasizes that the key to plant breeding is the continuous increase of genetic material. Unfortunately, she shares, the banking program does not receive the funding it needs.

 Dr. Frisco Malabanan and Dr. Dar, both promote hybrid rice as a solution to the reduced production of rice in the country. The production of hybrid rice uses less water than the non-hybrid quality. The variety that Dr. Malabanan promotes uses sixty percent (60%) less water.
        
Ms. Analiza Solis of the Pag-asa, meanwhile, shares the same insight that climate and agriculture production are directly related. She says that agriculture has a strong climate connection. Pag-asa has created various tools that agriculturists can use. To name a few, they have a 10-day weather outlook utilizing NOAA , seasonal outlooks for 6 months, monthly climate assessment and outlook, drought/dry spell advisories, farm weather forecast and advisories, 10 day regional agri-weather information and drought and crop assessment and forecasting.

Photo courtesy of climate.nasa.gov