Trees help farmers adapt to climate change

With trees, farmers have a source of food, fuel and timber for consumption or income during climate extremes


By Regine Evangelista


‘There is nothing we can do’.

With resignation and a hint of despair, this is how resource-poor Filipino farmers responded when asked how they dealt with climate change.

Smallholding farmers are already among the most impoverished and rural communities often experience food insecurity. Climate change is only making things worse. Not only do the worsening climate extremes (like stronger typhoons, heavy rains and longer drought periods) threaten their lives and property; they also affects their farms, which are often their only source of income or sustenance. Farmers recall strong typhoons and floods that destroyed their crops and long droughts that depleted water sources. Just this year, farmers interviewed in Peñablanca, Cagayan, Philippines, had to reduce their twice-yearly corn cropping season to just one because of the late onset of the rainy season brought about by El Niño.

Farmers designing agroforestry systems

Farmers designing agroforestry systems. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Regine Joy Evangelista and Tessa Beyer

In this state, it is easy to lose hope and do nothing.

It would seem like smallholders are doing nothing to respond to climate change impacts. This is revealed in the results of the project, Adapting to Extreme Events in Southeast Asia through Sustainable Land Management Systems, which is carried out as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security. Interviews, survey results and focus-group discussions all their research sites in the Philippines and Viet Nam revealed that the immediate, and common, response of farmers to climate extremes was to do nothing and wait. However, there is also a key natural system that plays a big role in climate change adaptation: TREES…


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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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