Environmental Management and Disaster Preparedness

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					        Making Climate Forecasts Relevant to Farmers and other End-users


Farmers of Barangay Maquina in Dumangas Municipality,
Iloilo Province, south of Philippines still remember the
devastation brought by climate in 1997: floods damaged their
first crop, and El-Nino-induced drought damaged their second
crop. The community is predominantly agricultural, with rice
as the main product (90%). For farmers who do not own the
land they till (50% of total), this meant going deeper in debt as they try to re-pay their
investment and pay rent to landowners, and … hunger.


ADPC’s Extreme Climate Events (ECE) Program, supported by USAID’s Office of Foreign
Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
(NOAA), has piloted the demonstration of the application of climate forecast information in
Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam from 2001 till 2003. The institutional mechanism for the
generation of climate forecasts and their application in agriculture and water resources has been
set up, involving national meteorological services (NMS), the agriculture department,
agriculture extension office and irrigation office, from the national down to local levels.
Seasonal forecasts are disseminated by the NMS to various user agencies, which then analyze
potential impacts with reference to past impacts and accordingly prepare contingency plans.
The ECE program complemented this approach by assessing climate risks to vulnerable
populations (e.g. subsistence farmers at the tail-end of irrigation systems or those that entirely
depend on rainfall), evaluating what kind of climate information they would need at what time
to be able to take anticipatory actions, and communicating these needs to the NMS for the
packaging of a climate forecast that is easily understood, will motivate at risk populations to
take action, and issued at appropriate times for them to take mitigative actions. This end-to-end
climate information generation and application system is illustrated below. The feedback
mechanism allows for adjustments in the forecasts to make them relevant to users.
The consultative meeting held in August 2003 between farmers, fishpond operators, the
Director of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) Region VI office, and municipal and
provincial agriculture officers of Dumangas, Iloilo (pilot site for the demonstration of the
application of climate forecasts in the Philippines), with the climate forecast provider, PAGASA,
allowed farmers to give feedback on the usability of the climate information provided for the
last season (November 2002 to March 2003), articulate the type and timing of climate
information that they need, explored ways to address the needs expressed, as well as allowed
PAGASA to explain the limitations of their current forecast capacity. Farmers at the tail-end of
the irrigation system who practice dry seeding said that they would need information on the
onset of rains and the volume of water expected at least a month before each cropping season,
for farm preparation, and to guide them
                                                 Providing climate outlook
in deciding when to spray herbicide.
                                                            Interpreting global climate
Fishpond operators were also interested                      outlook into local outlook
on the onset and amount of rainfall
                                                                       Translating local climate
during the dry season for decisions on                               outlook into impact scenarios
when    to    undergo     pond    cleaning
operations    for   removal      of   toxic                                  Communication to/ from farmers
                                                                                (responses/ feedback)
materials, and when to start operations,
considering the possibility of saline intrusion when evaporation is highOnset of rains during the
wet season is a useful information to guide their start-up decisions, as rains destroy algae
formation needed for food during the critical stages of fish growth.


For NIA and the provincial agriculture office (PAO), information on the onset and amount of
rainfall are important in determining water availability to support rice crop, and therefore for the
NIA, this will guide decision to acquire pumps to access water from creeks and rivers, and for
the PAO, to issue farmers advisory to plant alternate crops. For example, the climate outlook
for the dry season from November 2002 to March 2003 for the province of Iloilo was issued in
August 2002 by PAGASA. It predicted that rains during the coming dry season would be below
the normal level. Based on the forecast, the PAO prepared an impact outlook, which revealed
that farmers at the tail-end of irrigation systems would not receive enough water for cultivating
rice crop. The PAO then informed vulnerable farmers in Iloilo about the impending water
scarcity during the critical stages of rice growth, and advised them to plant alternate drought-
resistant, short-duration crops. Most farmers followed the advice, and planted watermelon,
mung beans, fruits and vegetables, which resulted to about US$ 6 million worth of produce.
Had there been no forecast, farmers would have not realized this benefit, and would have
potentially lost US$ 2.4 million from the rice crop that they intended to plant. Others, who were
skeptical about the advisory, still planted rice, and lost their crops.


Application of climate forecast in water resources management is illustrated in the recent
conflict over the waters of Philippines’ largest dam (San Roque Dam) in Pangasinan, north of
Philippines. The Provincial Governor (who is also the Executive Officer of the Provincial
Disaster Coordinating Council) asked PAGASA at the beginning of the rainy season (May
2003) to provide the seasonal forecast for the province. PAGASA informed the Governor that
four tropical cyclones are expected to enter the country and may affect the region. Acting on the
forecast, the Governor requested the dam operator, National Power Corporation (NPC), to
release impounded water in anticipation of the amount of rainfall that these cyclones would
bring, thereby reducing the risk of flooding that a possible spillage at the height of the rainy
season would cause. The NPC argued on the accuracy of the forecast and informed the
Governor that they would not release any water: one meter depth of impounded water is worth
more than PHP 1 million of water supply (and, besides, the dam’s spillover capacity has not
been tested yet). Concerned for the safety of his constituents, the Governor called for a meeting
involving the NPC President and PAGASA. The dialogue prompted the NPC President to
authorize the release of the precious water. Cyclones passed the area as predicted. Rains
brought by the super typhoon that passed in mid-August raised the dam’s water level to 15 m in
just three days.


These cases demonstrate the use of climate forecast information in reducing losses from floods,
droughts and cyclones, enabling the better management of resources and strengthening the
sustainability of livelihoods in communities. The work that the ECE Program began will be
continued by the new Climate Forecast Applications Program in the next five years (2003-2008),
with funding support from USAID/OFDA for Indonesia and the Philippines, and NOAA for
Vietnam, in collaboration with the International Research Institute for Climate Prediction (IRI).
Through this program, ADPC and its national partners will bring localized climate forecast
information to farmers, fishpond operators and other end users, especially to those whose
subsistence fully rely on what climate brings, as it aims to enable communities and national
institutions manage and reduce risks to climate variability in these countries.


 Lolita Bildan, ADPC, with contributions from Nathaniel Cruz and Susan Espinueva, PAGASA


The CFA Program is implemented by the Climate Risk Management Team of ADPC, led by A.R. Subbiah
(subbiah@adpc.net).

				
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