ATOK, Benguet — Climate change, a subject not having gotten much attention among majority in Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), is beginning to shape perception of farmers views and their responses to this problematic environmental stress, according to researchers.
Despite their limited, adaptive capacity, they recognize that changes in climate conditions are apparent in hinterland Cordillera, posing serious challenges in their ability in maintaining the region’s footing as main producer of highland vegetables in the Philippines.
Undoubtedly, there still remnants of “Doubting Thomas” on this environmental change, researchers hinting it borders on individual farmer’s experience that can range from psychological constructs like knowledge, beliefs to attitudes.
To the doubting Thomas farmer, for example, whenever climate change gets introduced, the conversation tends to turn political and the blame game starts, sometimes pessimistic farmers saying sorts of responses like, “panggep daytoy ti bulok a sestema” (a rotten system), suggesting such disparity in beliefs may cause agricultural collaborators to respond to climate information very differently.
But many CAR farmers are getting convinced climate change is, indeed, occurring.
Such discourse has prompted the local government of La Trinidad, Benguet to become the first in the Philippines of having integrated in its development plans, the ways of organic farming.
In the municipality of Atok, Benguet, there is an uptick of interest to grapple with technological innovation to improve farm systems in the wake of environmental stress, while at the same time wanting to acquire knowledge to understand better about climate change and respond to it.
In Naguey, Atok, researchers listened about a song that reflects sentiments of residents there that, humans remain the main culprits regarding climate change and unless people take heed, the result will be to their woe.
The song is titled “Kalutaan” (Earth). Nobody in Naguey can exactly say who wrote the song except to tell that it was by a certain “Bitit” and “Bingbing.”
But listening to the song brings out the profound understanding of residents there in trying their best to keep nature the way it should be for them for the generations to come.
Parts of the song lyrics go this way: “Ta nu din lubong et mab-bay, ya am-i-am-in et magday; entu din ameyam pay, ya din lubong at eng-eng-gay.”
“Kalutaan, kataguan, entako ayuwanan; adi tako palaluan, ta abes, umayuwan.”
(If earth gets tired, and everything is wrecked; where will one go, when the earth is only one).
(Earth, the source of living, let us take care of it; let us not abuse earth, so earth will take care of us).
The Naguey song of Atok is a reflection put to song by Bingbing and Bitit that residents can either be the key to helping protect Atok municipality of its remaining natural cornerstone or, hastening it to further deterioration aggravated by climate change.
What makes farmers in Atok discerning regarding this environmental disorder is that they share whatever knowledge they perceive appropriate in addressing this impact, as culled in the study, “Knowledge Sharing of farmers’ Adaptation Strategies on Climate Stresses in Benguet, Philippines.”
A mixed-method research design, the study was conducted by Felisa L. Malabayas and Rowena T. Baconguis of the College of Forestry and Natural Resources, College of Public Affairs and Development, all of the University of Philippines, (UPLB) Los Banos, Laguna.
During the conduct of the study, Malabayas and Baconguis were assisted by Dr. Kenneth Laruan, professor, Benguet State University (BSU).
In the Atok way, such trait is manifested in the genuine approach of interest of “helping one another, learn new processes and develop new capacities for action, “the study emphasized.
Such nature of knowledge-sharing is an adaptation strategy shared among Atok farmers within the family or within the community. In essence, the study noted it is a process of sharing skills, experience and understanding.
Malabayas and Baconguis zeroed in on fifty-three farmers belonging to the Liang-Bonglo Farmers Association and the Namegpegan-Akiki Farmers Association in coordination with the Atok Municipal Agriculture officer (MAO) who served as anthropologist between researchers and farmers.
It was discovered by the UPLB researchers that in the case of the Atok farmers of the two associations, farmers mutual-give-and-take of knowledge and information meant “the respondents were highly motivated to share information to a person if he will also share what he knows.”
This statement reflects the intention of the farmers when they share their knowledge on adaptation strategies to climate stresses.
“This phenomenon can be explained by the fact that there is an increasing pressure to respond to these environmental stresses and less information reaching them about what really works in their respective contextual circumstances. As the Atok MAO explains that farmers believe they are also scientists who have been tilling their land for long, “the study noted.
In short, the respondents have already experimented on what to do to changes in the environment that affect their farms, the study emphasized.
A very good example to such observation is during the time when frost sets at Atok and covers agricultural fields and plants, bringing with it the biting cold. Cold tends to wither the leaves and vegetable plants. However, Atok farmers found a way to beat the frost.
Whenever frost sets in, usually beginning at around 12 o’clock during nights, farmers keep vigil during the ongoing hours and turn on water sprinklers. Sprinkling water neutralizes frost and the cold, thereby saving vegetables for the day, the study noted.
Why the motivation to share knowledge on climate change among the Atok farmers covered in the study point to reciprocity of action and relationship with a recipient. A person is motivated to do a favor to another person for something in return.
“Both respondents from Liang-Bonglo and Namegpegan-Akiki were motivated to share climate change knowledge, a relationship built on trust which influenced their knowledge-sharing practices,” the study said.
Atok farmers share their knowledge on climate change adaptation through informal venues rather than formal ones, more so when they are on the fields, which emphasizes interpersonal value of knowledge exchange, or, they use their own personal cell phones, the study noted.
Space of interaction is crucial for knowledge exchange on climate adaptation. Here, the UP-Los Banos-based researchers discovered that Atok farmers utilize talks during occasions like after Sunday church service, clan reunion, weddings, birthdays, community get-together or during funerals, and as a result, strengthening further Kankana-ey culture and tradition.
Respondents revealed a singular characteristic that they tended to listen more to information or practice considered as “hard-earned knowledge,” an example being adaptation practice related to changing environmental condition which affect everybody and thus, is deemed to be discussed collectively.
Topics often talked about during these informal gatherings, as gleaned from respondents, included change of seed variety appropriate for the season, adjusting crop schedule disrupted by weather conditions, changing of plants for specific months, use or formulation of fertilizer and pest management practices.
“These informal gatherings are considered less intimidating when discussing farm-related problems and information, as compared to visits by technical experts of the Department of Agriculture – Cordillera Administrative Region (DA-CAR) or, from MAO,” the study explained.
To prove such point, the study found out that only four of the Liang-Bonglo Farmers Association made use of formal venues in sharing their knowledge on farm topics and climate change. This was attributed to “in a position,” being president of the association and also chairman of the Atok Municipal Agricultural and fisheries Council. Being in position he did not feel intimidated in talking.
MAO of Atok also explained in behalf of the farmers during the study that farmers in this upland municipality rarely have time to chat with their neighbors as they are laboring in their farms lots all day, adding truth to the saying, “A farmer’s job is never done.”
Majority of the male respondents aged 22-45 belonging to Liang-Bonglo Farmers Association was found to have attained college level, while nearly half of the Namegpegan-Akiki Farmers Association told researchers they only reached high school.
Respondents revealed they have experienced climate change in their agricultural endeavors like drought, extreme change in temperature, frost and hail that severely affected water supply and irrigation. Hail and frost were factors the farmers pointed to as culprits affecting profitability of their produce as these despoil quality of vegetables.
Adaptation strategies the farmers cited they utilized were dependent on the climate stress experienced and category of adaptation strategy based on nutrient management.
For example, under pest and disease management, farmers utilized chemical pesticide, fungicide or insecticide. For nutrient management, farmers relied on synthetic, chemical and organic fertilizer.
What the study unearthed, were respondents heavy use of chemicals. Atok MAO explained that chemical companies easily access Atok as their representatives are provided with motorcycles as their means of transportation.
Regarding water use, respondents revealed they do not maximize tilling of their farm lots due to inadequate water supply during droughts and changed the variety of seeds to be planted depending on the season.
Aside from clan-centered knowledge sharing among Atok farmers, the study recommended creation of other venues for knowledge-sharing. For example, the researchers cited the lowland farmers who have venues in exchanging information, which they call “tambayan,” or a place of hangout particularly called, “huntahan,” or meeting place for conversation.
It was also recommended that Atok farmers association meetings be scheduled regularly. Frequency of meetings could lead to an exchange of climate change information and ideas can crop up for the farmers. Resource persons and experts on climate change should be invited.
The researchers recommended that farmers allow agriculture students conducting practicum on climate change to conduct their studies in their respective farm lots or areas as these help in capacity-building of all farmers in Atok.