Agriculture and agribusiness non-profit Foundation for Resource Linkage and Development(FRLD) has underscored the importance of a climate change- resilient agricultural industry in improving the livelihood of farmers and fisherfolks in Eastern Visayas (Region 8).

FRLD president Antonio Roces said the impact of climate change on agriculture is a very timely and socially relevant issue, particularly in regions like Eastern Visayas, which is more susceptible to unnaturally stronger typhoons, flooding, ocean acidihcation and prolonged drought due to its geographical location as well as socioeconomic and adaptive capacities.

The Department of Agriculture, FRLD and other stakeholders are holding Agrilink 2019 at the World Trade Center on Oct.3 to 5 to discuss ways to promote a more inclusive and sustainable agricultural transformation in Easterm Visayas.

Despite having vast farm lands and abundant fishing grounds, the share of agriculture in the region’s economy remained at only 14 percent last year, data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed.

Despite these challenges,Eastern Visayas remains one of the top producers of coconut. According to reports from the DA and National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA),70 percent of its agricúltural lands are planted with coconut trees.

The region also has considerable production in staples like rice and corn as well as abaca, sweet potato, and taro (gabi) as alternative crops. Low productivity in the region’s agricultural commodities are often due to weak market linkages as well as inefficient and underdeveloped facilities. Even strife can be prohibitive to the growth of the region’s agricultural industry.

A way that could help tackle the region’s perennial susceptibility to climate change is investment in resilient technologies and inputs as well as implementation of agricultural practices that can make use of lands more efficiently.

An example of this would be the DA’s Special Area for Agricultural Development (SAAD) project in Samar, which will allocáte P1.37 billion to provide farmers climate change-tolerant seed varieties and inputs.

SAAD will also help farmers in identifying crops most suitable in their lands, and better understanding soil properties, rainfall patterns, temperature, and climate change hazards.

The project is the first to be rolled out in the DA’s implementation of Adaptation and Mitigation Initiative in Agriculture(AMIA), which is among the agency’s measures in addressing climate change.

Efforts are also underway in establishing a regional technology management and demonstration center in Southern Leyte.Spearheaded by the DA’s Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech), the center will promote the commercialization of PhilMech’s farming technologies and postharvest equipment that are configured to suit to the Philippine climate.

The adverse impact of climate change to farmers and fisherfolks can also be mitigated through value-adding and product diversification. Given the price volatilities in today’s global market, coconut farmers can no longer depend on producing staples like copra and palm oil.

Given the region’s stable production in coconut, farmers can elevate their crops’ value chain by expanding and converting their cash crop into value-added products.These include food products like virgin coconut oil, sugar, water, and lambanog; cosmetic ingredients like shell charcoal and activated carbon; and industrial products like methyl ester, which is used in biodiesels.

Value-adding can be complemented with crop diversification, which can help transform Eastern Visayas’ traditional agricultural industry into a dynamic sector.

For example, farmers can explore into planting fruit-bearing trees and örchards or adding ranches or livestock into their.existing coconut farms. Farmers can also explore maximizing their agribusiness by diversifying the crops they plant, such as cacao, taro,sweet potato, and abaca.

Published in Philippine Star