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MANILA, Philippines — Farmers all over the country may soon be taught how to interpret climate data based on satellite photographs on the internet and build their own weather stations.
Using these skills and equipment, they will be ensured of improved harvests and better decision-making processes to avert or reduce flood- and drought-related damages arising from climate change.
Under a soon-to-be proposed training module of the Philippine weather agency’s Climate Field School, farmers will be given advanced training that will allow them to “read maps and satellite photographs” and “use these information with their knowledge of basic meteorology.”
Once farmers are able to “read climate information, they can apply that to their every day work,” Anthony Lucero, a senior weather specialist at the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astrononical Services Agency (Pagasa), told InterAksyon.com.
To further “deepen and institutionalize” these efforts, farmers will also be trained to “put up their own weather stations, gather data, compile, and archive them,” Lucero added.
Lucero’s proposal is not a pipe dream. The program’s vital components have been established more than ten years ago in Dumangas, Iloilo.
At that time, residents had suffered from both floods and droughts, Lucero recounted.
During summer, their part of the river dried up, depriving farmers of precious water for their fields. The opposite took place during the wet season — the town would be submerged in floods, thanks to water from both the river and the sea.
This prompted residents to seek the agency’s assistance in helping forecast weather and thus prepare themselves for disasters.
Eventually, Pagasa modified and implemented its community-based flood early warning system for Dumangas, which later put up its own weather station.
That system later became part of what is now the agency’s Climate Field School, a three-month long program for farmers nationwide.
The school is just the first step toward formulating a localized but nevertheless nationwide sustainable climate change adaptation plans for towns and municipalities, according to Lucero.
To this end, Pagasa on Monday signed separate agreements with three towns — Gerona in Tarlac, Irosin in Sorsogon, and Tubigon in Bohol — for “continuous mentoring and capacity building in setting up their own local Automatic Weather Station.”
The memorandum was signed in Quezon City in a workshop sponsored by the Rice Watch and Action Network.
Since 2009, the non-government organization has been working with both Pagasa and local government units across the country for its project entitled “Integrating Climate Risks Management into Local Agricultural Development Planning.”
Besides helping teach weather monitoring skills, the memorandum will also require Pagasa to assist “in analysis of climate and weather data for use in the Climate Field School of the municipality.”
The agreement will also make farmers aware that “they have to change and adapt to changes in climate and agricultural patterns,” Gerona Mayor Dennis Go told InterAksyon.com.
As a result, the local government is now encouraging them to plant early due to changing rainfall patterns, according to Go.
Instead of May, farmers should plant a month ahead for the May to November cropping season, he said.
An initial 80 farmers in Barangay Bularit have been trained in the Climate Field School.
No resistance has been encountered so far since officials and experts have presented “purely technical and evidence-based data,” according to Go.
He said the town would soon put up its own weather station starting with rainfall-measuring equipment worth P2.7 million that will benefit the whole province as well.
Using similar initiatives of the Climate Field School, Tubigon, Bohol Mayor William Jao of Tubigon has undertaken efforts to build as many as ten mini-dams to ensure water supply for the farmers.
Costing about half a million pesos, these small dams ensure that upland ricefields are irrigated especially during El Niño, Jao told InterAksyon.com.
But as with all projects, this one has a downside, however minor.
Go said it might have a high-impact but it would have low visibility.
But he’s not discouraged. Nor is Jao.
After all, both believe that teaching farmers to read weather data and build weather stations is important.
These will provide “timely information” that will help in disaster risk reduction efforts, both mayors said.