Celebrating conservation agriculture with trees

The 20th anniversary of the Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resources Management program in the Philippines was celebrated with a workshop and farmers’ field day hosted by the World Agroforestry Centre at joint field sites in Claveria, Misamis Oriental


By Craig Jamieson


Since 1994, the Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resources Management (SANREM) Philippines research team have been developing and refining conservation agriculture technologies that help increase food production and improve livelihoods in upland farms while also preserving soils, water and other natural resources.

Jun Mercado on site

Dr Jun Mercado explaining the different production systems to the group while touring the field sites. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Craig Jamieson

A key feature of the program has been conservation agriculture, which is a strategy for enhancing nutrient retention and reducing soil erosion. These two issues have become critical in Philippine watersheds. Conservation agriculture is a system with three features: 1) minimal soil disturbance; 2) continuous mulch cover; and 3) diverse species rotations.

By adding trees to this mix, the system that has become known as ‘conservation agriculture with trees’ looks set to help farmers in Northern Mindanao become more resilient to future climate hazards while at the same time improving water quality for coastal towns and cities downstream.

The SANREM team, which includes researchers from Virginia Tech and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in the USA, have been incorporating trees into their demonstration systems. Trees have deeper roots than ground-cover plants, which helps to avoid landslides, such as the one caused by Typhoon Sendong (international name ‘Washi’) that hit the area in December 2011, claiming more than 1200 lives.

The 20 years of SANREM were celebrated in July 2014 with a day-long workshop at the World Agroforestry Centre and SANREM site in Claveria. More than 80 researchers, government officials and farmers, including delegates from Cambodia, attended the event called Conservation Agriculture with Trees for Food Security in the Philippines.

The attendees spent the first half of the day visiting demonstration sites of the different conservation agriculture production systems. Dr Agustin Mercado Jr, the Centre’s senior scientist based in Claveria, led the group on the tour of the sites.

In the afternoon, several talks were given on global, regional and local SANREM experience. Dr Rosalito Quirino, the president of Misamis Oriental State College of Agriculture and Technology, opened the program with a message on how conservation agriculture and the integration of vegetables in production systems can help farmers improve their living standards. A background to the global SANREM experience was given by Dr Adrian Ares, director of SANREM. Researchers from Cambodia and the Philippines also discussed how their respective sites benefited from conservation agriculture. I talked about how such systems can integrate livestock, crop production and energy production.

All of these activities were very successful thanks to the collaborative nature of the program. By involving everyone, the impact of the idea of conservation agriculture with trees was increased. As Dr Quirino said, ‘We involve many stakeholders so that the transformation of livelihoods and landscapes will be easier’.
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This work is linked to the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry



Rob Finlayson

Robert Finlayson is the Southeast Asia program's regional communications specialist. As well as writing stories for the Centre's website, he devises and supervises strategies for projects and the countries in the Southeast Asia region, including scripting and producing videos, supervising editors and translators and also assisting with resource mobilization.

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