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SCF

Project Updates

Bridging the gap between seasonal climate forecasts (SCFs) and decisionmakers in agriculture

Vol. II Nos. 1 & 2 (December 2006)

A decade of destruction from seasonal climatic aberrations

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uch had happened in the Philippines’ agricultural sector over the past decade. Great technological milestones were made but setbacks were also ever present. Productivity in the crop sector has generally been increasing over the last 10 years but production losses, especially those from seasonal climatic aberrations, have also been huge. Data from the Department of Agriculture prove the vulnerability of the farming sector to the unpredictability of nature. Droughts, floods, and typhoons have been wreaking havoc on crops and causing untold miseries among farmers. From 1995-2004 alone, climatic aberrations had damaged a total of 4.1 million hectares of prime rice and corn farmlands. Cumulative losses incurred amounted to P16 billion for rice farmers and P7.2 billion for corn growers (Table 1). A major cause of the climatic catastrophes being experienced in the country, and in other parts of the world, is the El Niño southern oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon. ENSO has two major phases: the El Niño or warm event and the La Niña or cold event. El Niño conditions lead to drier seasons due to suppressed tropical cyclone activity and

weak monsoon characterized by delayed onset and early termination of the rainy season and by prolonged dry periods. La Niña, on the other hand, is characterized by above normal rainfall and longer rainy seasons. The impact of ENSO was clearly documented during the 19971998 El Niño/La Niña episode when a total of P7.6 billion in rice and corn production losses were incurred. More alarming is the seemingly frequent occurrence of the ENSO phenomenon in recent years. There has not been a single year from 1994 up to the present when either the cold or warm phase of ENSO was not present (Table 2). This fact is distressing given the trend that the event only occurred on average by intervals of 2-7 years during the last 300 years. This apparent increase in climatic variability equates to elevated risks in agricultural production and postproduction operations. Risks are easily converted to losses when not properly addressed. ENSO impacts all segments of society but among the most affected are resourceconstrained farmers whose livelihoods are greatly dependent on the changing seasons. This is most evident among rainfed farmers who rely exclusively on rainfall to irrigate their crops.

Contents 3 El Niño is here again! 4 Team members hone their skills on simulation tools 5 Researcher presents findings on SCF impact simulation 6 PIDS conducts rice farmlevel study with PhilRice 7 Corn farming communities are among the most impoverished 8 Philippine and Australian partners cap the year with a project team meeting


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SCF Project Updates

December 2006

ing a range of risk management programs for farmers and other agricultural stakeholders. These include price stabilization measures, typhoon and/or drought relief, livestock and feed subsidies, fertilizer, and other input subsidies as well as subsidized crop insurance schemes. Specialized projects are also being implemented in collaboration with local and international partners to aid in the effort. An example of this workable partnership is the ACIAR-funded Bridging the gap between SCF and decisionmakers in agriculture. The project is a collaborative undertaking between the governments of Australia and the Philippines, through the Philippine AtmoPalay and corn damages spheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), the 5,000,000 4,500,000 Philippine Institute for Development 4,000,000 Studies (PIDS), and the Leyte State 3,500,000 3,000,000 University, for the Philippines. It essen2,500,000 tially deals with managing climate vari2,000,000 1,500,000 ability through better forecast informa1,000,000 tion and better utilization and apprecia500,000 tion of these forecasts by agricultural 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 decisionmakers. Palay Area(ha) Palay Volume(MT) Palay Value (P'000) Though not much could be done YEAR Corn Area(ha) Corn Volume (MT) Corn Value (P'000) when a “prolonged drought” or a “super typhoon” strikes, there is still a wide array of applicable tools that could help Table 1. Damages to rice and corn production due to droughts, floods, and typhoons from 1995-2004 agricultural workers mitigate environmental chalYear Palay Damages Corn Damages lenges and decide intelliArea (ha) Volume(MT) Value (P’000) Area(ha) Volume (MT) Value (P’000) gently in the face of seasonal 1995 581,511 953,436 3,977,341 126,863 192,979 476,412 uncertainties. A crop farmer 1996 95,326 114,979 234,706 13,196 418,481 704,416 will have a healthier chance 1997 201,021 204,186 433,284 30,675 27,697 82,439 1998 1,281,838 1,863,848 4,679,394 350,357 497,075 1,846,004 of going through seasonal 1999 278,956 258,487 809,088 9,883 5,714 32,873 abnormalities and coming 2000 375,029 510,553 1,594,869 19,394 10,535 57,598 2001 214,593 296,040 805,059 140,882 162,808 546,143 out unscathed if he is well 2002 121,199 220,760 548,347 53,271 87,046 330,354 informed. The decision to 2003 287,199 413,155 1,320,091 255,565 663,901 1,696,124 push through with the crop2004 362,086 649,531 1,696,584 148,578 492,183 1,436,241 ping season should ideally Total 3,798,758 5,484,975 16,098,763 1,148,664 2,558,419 7,208,604 be the product of an enlightMean 379,876 548,498 1,609,876 114,866 255,842 720,860 ened process.

AMOUNT

Other agricultural businesses that operate with better resources and more modern technology on better farmlands are also not spared from the same risks. Prolonged dry spells, excessive rains, and flooding are critical events that could easily destroy a season’s crop. The coming of rains signals the start of a new planting season but the same gift from nature—or lack of it—could easily wipe out a standing crop. The need to safeguard the interests and investments of local farmers and industry players is therefore of great importance. To address these concerns, the Philippine government has been implement-

Source: Department of Agriculture, 2006

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SCF Project Updates 3 December 2006

El Niño is here again!

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l Niño is back and here to stay, at least until the first half of year 2007. Climate monitoring bodies from all over the world, including the local meteorological agency PAGASA, have confirmed that the warm phase of the El Niño southern oscillation (ENSO) is continuing to progress. As of October this year, sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the central equatorial Pacific have been rising and the southern oscillation index (SOI) has been decreasing. Over the past six months, most of the statistical and coupled model forecasts employed by climate monitoring agencies like the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) in the United States have projected warmer conditions in the tropical Pacific. Weaker-than-average lowlevel equatorial easterly winds have also been observed across most of the region. CPC stated that collectively, current oceanic and atmospheric anomalies are consistent with the early stages of El Niño. In the Philippines, PAGASA had already come up with local advisories related to the progressive evolution of the current El Niño episode. The meteorological agency reported that the event is likely to intensify during the next three months and persist through April to June 2007. Below normal rainfall conditions were already observed by PAGASA over the past months in parts of northern and western Luzon, most of northern Panay Island including Iloilo, southern Cebu, the western parts of Bohol and Zamboanga provinces, most parts of the CARAGA provinces, Davao Oriental, eastern part of Davao del Norte and the southern tip of Davao del Sur, and South

Over the past six months, most of the statistical and coupled model forecasts employed by climate monitoring agencies have projected warmer conditions in the tropical Pacific. Weaker-than-average low-level equatorial easterly winds have also been observed across most of the region... Collectively, current oceanic and atmospheric anomalies are consistent with the early stages of El Niño. Cotabato. Only the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) and the occurrence of destructive typhoons had brought above normal rainfall in affected areas, as witnessed in the recent typhoons Milenyo, Neneng, Ompong, and Paeng. Rainfall forecasts for November included below normal projections in most parts of the country, except in Isabela, Quirino, Aurora, South Cotabato and Surigao, and Regions IVB, V, and VIII where rainfall is forecasted to be normal. This early, the threat to the country’s water reserves is already being felt by some sectors. Possible shortage of water supply in Metro Manila is a cause of alarm because the low rainfall volume might lead to a lower water level in Angat Dam. Dependent on rainfall to replenish its water reserve, the dam supplies water to Metro Manila’s 12 million residents and irrigates the vast agricultural lands of Central Luzon. The same problem is expected to be experienced in other parts of the country as El Niño intensifies. The government has already advised everybody to continue implementing appropriate measures to mitigate the potential adverse impacts of the episode on agriculture, water resources, hydropower generation, health and sanitation, and other affected sectors. E


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SCF Project Updates

December 2006

Team members hone their skills on simulation tools

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he ACIAR-funded project Bridging the gap between seasonal climate forecasts (SCF) and decisionmakers in agriculture conducted a workshop on simulation tools and softwares on September 19-21, 2006 at the PIDS office in Makati City. Participated in by team members from the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), Leyte State University (LSU), and Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), the workshop provided an excellent avenue for the exploration of applicable simulation tools and SCF valuation methodologies. Among the simulation tools discussed were the Decision Support Sys-

Corn simulation modeling using DSSAT is one of the tools being explored to value SCF.

tem for Agrotechnology Transfer (DSSAT), SIMETAR, and LUMENAUT. DSSAT is a software package integrating the effects of soil, crop phenotype, weather, and management options on crop production; while SIMETAR and LUMENAUT are Excel software add-ins for risk simulation, and econometric, graphical and statistical analysis. Tackled during the three-day activity were the data requirements of the simulation programs, inputting of data, creation and running of scenarios for simulation, and interpretation of simulation outputs. Uses of stochastic weather generators were also explored to fill out data gaps on daily precipitation and solar radiation. Ideas on alternative SCF valuation methodologies were also assessed. Dr. Canesio Predo, team member and assistant professor at LSU, demonstrated the application of SIMETAR and LUMENAUT in data processing and risk analysis. He also led the discussions on weather data generation and SCF valuation alternatives. Further reviewed were the other seasonal climate information and data requirements for the provinces of Isabela, Cebu, Leyte, and Bukidnon. These inputs are necessary for the farmlevel studies being conducted under the project. Team members are currently assessing the significance and impact of SCF and seasonal climate variability like El Ni単o and La Ni単a on major cornproducing areas in the country. E


SCF Project Updates 5 December 2006

Researcher presents findings on SCF impact simulation

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r. Felino Lansigan, Professor of Statistics at the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), presented the results of his study titled “Analysis of the effects of climate variability on corn productivity in the Philippines” on September 22, 2006 at the NEDA sa Makati Building, Makati City. Working with the ACIAR-funded project Bridging the gap between SCF and decisionmakers in agriculture, Dr. Lansigan discussed the initial results of his research during the “Pulong Saliksikan at PIDS” before an appreciative crowd of government and NGO representatives. He presented the effects of climatic variability on corn yield under different El Niño southern oscillation (ENSO) phases in three different locations, namely: (a) Los Baños, Laguna, (b) Ilagan, Isabela, and (c) Malaybalay, Bukidnon. In assessing the impact of SCF, Dr. Lansigan classified historical weather data into three categories: “dry (El Niño) year,” “wet (La Niña) year,” and “average (neutral) year.” He also generated synthetic weather data for the crop yield—climate variability analysis using applicable software to complete a 50year weather data series. The CERES-maize model, an ecophysiological-based crop simulation model for corn, was used to simulate yields given varying climatic and cultural conditions. Results showed that mean crop yields in the three locations were significantly different during wet

and dry years. Simulated corn yields in Ilagan gave the highest coefficient of variation (CV) of 35.2 percent during average years, and 27.7 percent and 27.0 percent during wet and dry years, respectively. Los Baños gave the lowest CV at 17.7 percent during wet years, and 28.9 percent and 26.4 percent during dry and average years, respectively. In Malaybalay, respective CVs for dry, average, and wet years were calculated at 22.4, 23.3, and 31.6 percent. Resulting figures also showed negligible yield differences during wet season cropping and appreciable changes during dry season cropping. Dr. Lansigan succeeded in showing the effect of climate variability on corn productivity through yield variability and yield differences within and between locations. Among the study sites, Ilagan, Isabela was found to be the most vulnerable to climatic variability especially during dry years, while Los Baños, Laguna proved to be the least vulnerable. As a positive note, Dr. Lansigan ended by stressing that the vulnerability of corn-growing areas may be reduced given appropriate coping strategies. E

Dr. Lansigan succeeded in showing the effect of climate variability on corn productivity through yield variability and yield differences within and between locations...As a positive note, he ended by stressing that the vulnerability of corn-growing areas may be reduced given appropriate coping strategies.


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SCF Project Updates

December 2006

PIDS conducts rice farm-level study with Philrice

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he Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) and the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) have recently agreed to undertake a collaborative study on the effect of seasonal climate variability on rice production at the farm level. In separate meetings held on March 27 and September 22, 2006, plans for a PhilRice–PIDS collaborative project on a farm-level case study on rice production were conceptualized and firmed up for implementation. With a seed money of P100,000.00 from the R&D funds of PhilRice and counterpart resources from PIDS, the joint undertaking is now poised for implementation. The study will try to shed light on the true value of seasonal climate forecast (SCF) for rice-based farming systems in the province of Nueva Ecija. It aims to determine how rice farmers in a major growing area are coping with seasonal variability and how they are us-

A decade of destruction ...from page 2

A decade of destruction and challenges from seasonal climate variability should have provided ample insights and learning to everyone concerned. The coming years should now serve as testament to this added wisdom, ushering in a more secured, productive, and profitable era for rice and corn farmers in the country. E

ing information like SCF to manage risks and minimize the adverse effects of environmental challenges. Select ricegrowing municipalities in Nueva Ecija will serve as study sites. Formal surveys and focus group discussions will be conducted to gather information from target farmer groups. The study will document dominant cropping patterns and production practices, and generate on-farm production data. It will then attempt to quantify the potential economic value of SCF to ricebased farmers using a valuation framework and draw policy implications from the results. Throughout the implementation process, the proponents of the study will try to enhance awareness among farmers on the usefulness of SCF for ricebased production systems through exchanges of information, insights, and experiences. E

Table 2. El Niño and La Niña episodes during the past decade Period May 1994–April 1995 October 1995-April 1996 June 1997-May 1998 August 1998- July 2000 November 2000- March 2001 June 2002-April 2003 August 2004-March 2005

Event El Niño La Niña El Niño La Niña La Niña El Niño El Niño

Source: Climate Prediction Center-National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (CPCNOAA), 2006


SCF Project Updates 7 December 2006

Corn farming communities are among the most impoverished

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orn farmers from the highlands of Isabela are among the most needy. A recent survey conducted by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) in connection with its farm-level case study on corn for the Bridging the gap between SCF and decisionmakers in agriculture project showed that income earned from planting corn is not sufficient to raise many small-hold corn growers from the trappings of poverty. “Farmers here are up to their necks in debt. Each one of us owes traders and financiers money ranging from P20,000 to almost half a million.” This was the remark made in the vernacular by Mr. Joseph Derada, a small-hold corn grower from the highlands of La Suerte, Angadanan in the province of Isabela. Without capital to buy inputs and pay for farm operating expenses, farmers are forced to avail of high interest loans from local traders and financiers. Current loan rates are pegged at a minimum of 30 percent, exclusive of retail margins. Farmers pay with their produce after every cropping season. Interviewed farmers stated that to fully pay for the season’s debts and earn enough to support a family, harvests should reach about 120 sacks or 6000 kg per hectare. But with recent yields reaching less than even half of this figure, they are left with almost nothing. Given not so good grain yields, coupled with environmental stresses like prolonged dry spells and excessive rains, there is a very slim chance that farmers will be able to get out of this poverty pit.

To prevent a repeat of last year’s cropping problems, climatic information like seasonal climate forecasts (SCFs) from the country’s weather bureau should be properly used. Better dissemination and utilization of SCFs would help farmers decide more intelligently on their cropping options. Last year alone, many corn growers in Isabela had experienced three consecutive crop failures due to erratic rainfall and flooding. This caused the national corn production share of the province to drop from 16 percent to 10 percent in 2005. The decrease is equivalent to a production loss of as much as 340,000 metric tons. But even with these setbacks, Isabela still remains as one of the country’s top corn producers. Nonetheless, if not so positive scenarios are happening in the country’s prime corn-producing province, one wonders what the situation might be in more marginal areas. In general, farming communities in rainfed uplands are very vulnerable. Dependent on the coming of rains to irrigate crops, they are at the mercy of nature. Excessive rains also wreak havoc as these lead to soil erosion and eventual loss of fertile topsoil. To prevent a repeat of last year’s cropping problems, climatic information like seasonal climate forecasts (SCFs) from the country’s weather bureau should be properly used. Better dissemination and utilization of SCFs would help farmers decide more intelligently on their cropping options. E


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SCF Project Updates

December 2006

Philippine and Australian partners cap the year with a project team meeting SCF Project Updates is a semestral newsletter of the project on Bridging the gap between seasonal climate forecasts and decisionmakers in agriculture. It is published with financial support from the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). Apart from this semestral newsletter and papers released occasionally, information and updates about the project, its research and research-related activities may be accessed through the project website at http:// dirp3.pids.gov.ph/ACIAR. For inquiries, please call or email the SCF Project Updates editorial staff: 1. Dr. John Mullen Tel: 02 6391 3608 Fax: 02 6391 3650 Email: john.mullen@dpi.nsw.gov.au 2. Ms. Jennifer P.T. Liguton Tel: 632 893 5705 Fax: 632 893 9589 Email: jliguton@pidsnet.pids.gov.ph

Editorial Staff John Mullen/Jennifer P.T. Liguton Editors-in-Chief Sheila V. Siar, Managing Editor Sonny N. Domingo, Writer/Researcher Jane C. Alcantara, Design/Layout

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ustralian and Philippine partners of the ACIAR-funded project Bridging the gap between SCF and decisionmakers in agriculture are scheduled to convene before the end of the year to discuss the progress and accomplishments of their collaborative undertaking. To be held on 11-15 December 2006 in the scenic city of Ormoc, Leyte, the gathering will be attended by project teams from PAGASA, PIDS, LSU, the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI), the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, and the University of Sydney. Team members will be reporting on the achievements of their respective institutions vis a vis project objectives. A seminar-workshop will also be conducted for LSU academics where climate-related concerns will be presented together with initial project outputs. Interesting exchanges of insights and ideas are expected among the partners as the project nears the halfway

The impact of climate variability is really a cause of alarm not only for farmers and agricultural workers but also for the rest of the population. Appropriate measures need to be implemented to address issues and bridge information gaps between knowledge institutions and end-users. The project ultimately hopes to better manage climate variability through better information, better decisionmaking, and better resource-use efficiency.

mark of its implementation period. For the past year, project-related activities in the Philippines have been intensifying. Among the most recent accomplishments of the project is the conduct of farm-level surveys in major corn-producing areas in the Philippines. A farm-level study on rice is also being pursued in collaboration with the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice). Substantial progress has also been made in the PIDS-led rice policy case study. In all these, outputs are being communicated to various stakeholders through projectled seminars, briefings, and the project’s website and newsletter. The impact of climate variability is really a cause of alarm not only for farmers and agricultural workers but also for the rest of the population. Appropriate measures need to be implemented to address issues and bridge information gaps between knowledge institutions and end-users. The project ultimately hopes to better manage climate variability through better information, better decisionmaking, and better resource-use efficiency. Improved cropping and agricultural production strategies are seen to greatly benefit farmers and agricultural stakeholders. As another calendar year winds up, there is great optimism among the collaborating agencies that targeted outputs will be satisfactorily accomplished before the project formally ends in 2008. E

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