Archive for August, 2010

Organic farming as climate change mitigation, adaptation strategy pushed

ORGANIC farming advocates are pitching calls for the promotion of organic farming as a climate change mitigation and adaptation strategy in the Philippines.

Oscar B. Zamora, a Professor at the University of Los Banos (UPLB) Department of Agriculture and a convenor of Go Organic! Philippines said organic farming or organic agriculture production systems are less prone to extreme weather condition, such as drought, flood and waterlogging.

Zamora, dean of the graduate school of the UPLB, said organic farming addresses key consequences of climate change, namely increased occurrence of extreme weather events, increased water stress, and problems related to soil quality.

“It (organic farming) reduces the vulnerability of the farmers to climate change and variability,” he explained.

Roland Cabigas, managing director of La Liga Policy Institute and a convenor of Go Organic! Philippines said the group has been advocating for the massive conversion of conventional rice farms to organic farm sites to help address climate change.

The Philippines, he said, remain highly vulnerable to climate change which adversely affects farm production as a result of extreme weather events such as typhoons, floods or agricultural drought.

“We need to rethink the way we do agriculture because it is already killing us,” Cabigas said.

As an adaptation strategy, organic farming, increases soil organic matter content, and hence higher water holding capacity making crops more resistant to drought conditions, Zamora said in his paper entitled “Organic Agriculture as a Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Strategy” where he identified some of the climate change resilient crops and potential substitute for rice during low rainfall periods, Zamora stressed.

These crops include avocado, carrot, cashew, common bean, corn, cowpea, eggplant, garlic, lablab bean, lesser yam, lettuce, mango, mungbean, mustard, okra, onion, pea, peanut, pechay, pepper, radish, sesame, sorghum, soybean, squash, sunflower, sweet potato, tomato, watermelon, and wax gourd.

By promoting the practice of biodiversity-based farming systems that increase the diversity of income sources and the flexibility to cope with adverse effects of climate change and variability, such as changing rainfall patterns, organic farming actually reduces the vulnerability of the farmers to climate change and variability, he said.

“This leads to higher economic and ecological stability through optimized ecological balance and risk-spreading.”

Zamora added that since organic farming is a low-risk farming strategy with reduced costs of external inputs, it lowers risks with partial or total crop failure due to extreme weather events or changed conditions in the wake of climate change and variability.

Organic farming also provides products that command higher prices via an organic certification system, he added.

Due to lower costs of production and higher selling prices, farmers can actually increase their income, thus the coping capacity of the farms is increased and the risk of indebtedness is lowered.

As a mitigation strategy, Zamora said organic farming addresses emissions reduction, reduces carbon emissions from farming system inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides; methane, C02, CO emissions in lowland paddy soils by effective water management.

Organic farming, he added, promotes carbon sequestration. This is achieved through, among others, cultural management practices, such as use of compost and other organic materials for soil fertility enhancement, practice of biodiversity-based farming systems (mixed cropping and use of green manures, legume-based crop rotation, agroforestry systems involving annual crops, perennials, trees and hedges).

“Increasing soil organic carbon in agricultural systems has been pointed out as an important mitigation option by IPCC,” he added.

He added that practice of soil conserving tillage system such as zero or minimum tillage because when there is excessive plowing, soil carbon gets oxidized and become atmospheric carbon dioxide5.

“It also reduces biomass mineralization, decreases oxygen availability and increases soil organic carbon concentration.  These practices help reduce evaporation by minimizing exposed soil surface area of soil,” he added.