Holistic adaptation needed for smallholders in the Philippines

Smallholding farmers in the Philippines notice climate change and its impacts on their farming systems, however, their adaptive capacities are not yet fully maximized. There is, thus, a need to holistically develop their capacities.


A farmer from Lantapan, Bukidnon, another rural community in the Philippines, examines her celery crop affected by climate change. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Edith Mayormita

A farmer from Lantapan, Bukidnon, another rural community in the Philippines, examines her celery crop affected by climate change. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Edith Mayormita

Researchers have found that smallholding farmers in the Molawin-Dampalit Sub-Watershed in the northern Philippines have noticed that the climate is changing, especially in the context of their farming systems. These farmers are usually reactive in their strategies for coping with the impacts of the change. To increase their adaptive capacities, a holistic approach is needed that improves their human, physical and social capitals.

The study was carried out under the project, Documenting Adaptation Strategies and Coping Responses of Smallholder Farmers and the Role of Trees in Enhancing Resilience at Selected Watersheds in the Philippines, with support from the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees, and Agroforestry. The World Agroforestry Centre Philippines headed this project in partnership with the Institute of Agroforestry of the University of the Philippines Los Baños.

Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 107 smallholders from six ‘barangays’ (villages) in the Molawin-Dampalit Sub-Watershed of the Makiling Forest Reserve in Laguna province of the Philippines. They were interviewed on the changes in climate that they observed, the impacts on their farming systems and their adaptive and coping practices. Focus-group discussions were also carried out with farmers and representatives from the Municipal Agricultural Office to support the survey findings.

Smallholders mostly have 1–3 ha of land to cultivate. Farming systems largely differed according to the area of their farms. Out of the 107 farmers, 54% employed multiple cropping or the intercropping of two or more agricultural crops while 35% had agroforestry systems (or simply put, trees) on their farms.

Lowland farmers usually cultivated annual agricultural crops, such as rice, corn, root crops and vegetables, whereas perennial crops and fruit and forest trees were usually grown by upland farmers. Farmers from one of the upland barangays also cultivated ornamental flowers. The farmers who were interviewed pointed out the more vulnerable crops, including rice, corn, banana, coconut, rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum), lanzones (Lansium domesticum), vegetables and ornamental flowers. Coping and adaptation strategies should, therefore, include practices that decrease the vulnerability of these crops.

Most of the farms of the respondents (74%) were rainfed, thus, the farmers were very aware of the changes in rainfall and temperature. A major impact of climate change on their farms was the delayed fruiting of fruit trees, which are a major source of income, especially for the upland farmers. Annual crops were also affected by a higher incidence of pests and diseases.

In responding to these challenges, farmers chose to increase their farm inputs, including fertilizers and pesticides, thus, increasing the financial capital they needed for a good harvest. Other coping strategies included adjusting their planting calendars, engaging in other livelihoods, and diversifying by planting other crops that can withstand the changes in climate. Farmers would also seek assistance from concerned agencies and attend training workshops.

Most of these responses were, however, considered reactive to the climate conditions in their areas. Long-term solutions should be integrated into farmers’ practices to increase their adaptive capacities. The concept of the ‘five capitals’ (that is, resources categorized as natural, social, physical, financial and human capitals) could be used to identify ways to holistically improve their adaptation strategies.

The researchers recommended developing the farmers’ human, physical and social capitals, in particular. Their human capital could be improved by offering capacity-building programs and training workshops to the farmers. These would increase their knowledge on the appropriate climate-change adaptation strategies for their specific areas. To improve their physical capital, farmers could use cost-effective and environmentally-friendly soil and water conservation practices and maximize the benefits they get from trees on their farms. In doing so, they would address climate change and also have additional sources of income. Establishing links and networks among farming communities and other external organizations would extend support services to a greater number of farmers, thus, increasing their social capital.

Another recent study was published on farmers’ knowledge of the ecosystem services that trees provide in the Molawin-Dampalit Sub-Watershed. The researchers found that a greater awareness of the services trees provided can influence farmers to consider integrating trees on their farms.


Read the article

Landicho LD, Paelmo RF, Baliton RS, Lasco RD, Visco RG, Cabahug RD, Espaldon MLO. 2015. Field-level evidences of climate change and coping strategies of smallholder farmers in Molawin-Dampalit Sub-Watershed, Makiling Forest Reserve, Philippines. Asian Journal of Agriculture and Development 12(1): 81–94.



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This work is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry




Photo caption:

A farmer from Lantapan, Bukidnon, another rural community in the Philippines, looks at her celery crop affected by climate change. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Edith Mayormita


Amy Cruz

Amy Cruz is the communications officer for the World Agroforestry Centre Philippines. She is developing an integrated communications strategy for the Philippine program, scripting and editing videos and promoting projects through various media. Her other interests include social media, writing and photography. She has a Bachelor of Science in Development Communication, major in Science Communication.

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