Philippines, We Need A New Secretary For Climate Change Agriculture

MANILA: So we have The Paris Agreement on climate change that 195 countries signed Saturday, 12 December 2015. I have written about it; see my "The Key To The Paris Agreement" (14 December 2015, The iSupercoop, blogspot.com). I said there, in so many words, that Climate Change should be made Big Business by the world. By all countries. I also mean it literally.


We have the International Agreement; what about the National Action? What should the Philippines be doing?

Wake up, agriculture world! I will confine myself to agriculture here, since I'm not familiar with other sources of greenhouse gases. There are at least 3 gases that agriculture contributes to global warming: carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. The Paris Agreement covered only carbon dioxide, so that, rightfully, the whole world is worried about carbon dioxide. Yet it is not worried about methane, whose global warming potential is 20 times more than carbon dioxide (data from Adrian Leip & Stefano Bocchi, 2007, researchgate.net). And the warming potential of nitrous oxide is even more, 300 times that of carbon dioxide (epa.gov). And more than 70% of total nitrous oxide emissions come from agriculture. Who is the #1 perpetrator of climate change? Agriculture!

"One-third of our greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture" – Natasha Gilbert (31 October 2012, Nature, nature.com). Actually, that covers only carbon dioxide emissions. More than 50% of the emissions from agriculture come from the soil in the form of nitrous oxide, which comes from nitrogen fertilizers. (I have already written about this; see my "Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture. Next, Client-Smart Agriculture!" 27 September 2014, A Magazine Called Love, blogspot.com.)

Wake up, agriculture Philippines! In this country, there are about 5 million farms comprising about 10 million ha (15 March 2015, PSA, psa.gov.ph). The Paris Agreement covered only carbon dioxide, so that should take care of all that gas. Now, since agriculture contributes methane and nitrous oxide gases, and these come from chemical fertilizers that Filipinos love; and since we know our farmers over-apply, especially with nitrogen fertilizers, we should be worried because we have 10  M ha contributing those gases at least 8 months of the year during the growing of rice, 2 planting seasons.

So, who is to blame for man-caused global warming more than anyone else? The rice farmers!

And so I argue that if we want the Philippines to contribute much to the Global Climate Action after the matter of The Global Climate Agreement, we have to get our act together in the field of growing rice. And no, we do not need any funds from any rich country for us to act on climate change on our own. I say that what we need to do now is call for a new Secretary of Agriculture to lead 5 million farmers to the Promised Land of Prosperity.

We need a new Secretary of Agriculture. ASAP!

The image above I took 25 December 2014 at Santa Cecilia, Aringay, La Union, at 0624 hours with my Lumix FZ100 superzoom all-digital camera. Growing corn, the irrigator with a pump takes his water from the Aringay River, which is nearby. Unfortunately, the Aringay River is drying up, as the watershed that feeds it water has dried up long ago. Technology can only do so much. Same story as Ambuklao, Binga, Pantabangan Dams. We cannot dissociate the watersheds of those hydroelectric plants from agriculture because their waters are our sources of irrigation. I understand that under a private volunteer group, the La Mesa watershed is doing fine. Effectively reforested and now presenting itself as the La Mesa Ecopark, with the leadership of a woman, Gina Lopez. If taken good care of, those waters will all be also good for ecotourism.

All over the country, what we need right now is Climate Change Agriculture. Remember, it is the poor who are most vulnerable to climate change. For the millions of poor farmers, we need a brand new Secretary of Agriculture who was born poor and today has the courage of his convictions of how to set oneself free from poverty.

What's the mess we are in in agriculture? Actually, we have been very busy coming up with and implementing programs and projects, but there is no common Vision and no common Mission, so we are going in all different directions!

That's why we need a new Secretary of Agriculture urgently, someone with these attractive features:

(1)   Vision & sense of mission
(2)   Science believer
(3)   Climate change advocate
(4)   Team Captain
(5)   Partnership-conscious
(6)   Respected leader here and abroad
(7)   Visually optimistic

Vision & sense of mission
It's biblical, not only managerial: "Without vision, the people perish." Without corporate vision, the company will waste away itself. A Secretary of Agriculture should envision a Philippines without poor farmers, and enunciate how this can come about, his mission. Growth of agriculture is not a vision; it's natural. Elimination of poverty is a vision; it is going to be man-made as poverty is also man-made.

Science believer
Hardly has any Philippine Secretary of Agriculture affirmed and acted with faith in science in the last 100 years. "Science is the engine of prosperity" – Mariette DiChristina, Editor in Chief of Scientific American. "To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science" – Albert Einstein, genius of the world. "The science of today is the technology of tomorrow" – Edward Teller, Father of the Hydrogen Bomb. "Art is I; science is we" – Claude Bernard, distinguished French physiologist. I like that the Secretary of Agriculture espouses the Claude Bernard metaphor, which ensures that tools and systems are for the common good.

Climate change advocate
The Philippines needs a Secretary of Agriculture who believes that man-caused climate change is real and that we can do something to adapt to the reality of it in our farming as well as mitigate its adverse effects on us all. For instance, Filipino farmers are prodigal sons when it comes to water, and we have not done anything about this bad habit. It will take a national policy espoused by a knowledgeable Secretary of Agriculture to solve the problem.

Team Captain
The Department of Agriculture is huge; aside from the head office, it has 7 bureaus, 15 regional offices, and 21 attached agencies. All the more reason we need a team captain who understands servant leadership and who knows how to come up with an action plan to carry out the vision and mission, and to communicate electronically, instantaneously, and in depth.

The DA has 7 bureaus: Agricultural Training Institute (ATI), Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Standards (BAFS), Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI), Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), and Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM).

The DA has 15 Regional Field Offices: Cordillera Autonomous Region, Ilocos Region (1), Cagayan Region (2), Central Luzon (3), Central Office (NCR), Calabarzon (4A), Mimaropa (4B), Bicol (5), Western Visayas (6) Central Visayas (7), Eastern Visayas (8), Zamboanga Peninsula (9), Northern Mindanao (10), Davao Region (11), Socsargen (12), Caraga (13), and ARMM.

And the DA has 21 attached agencies and corporations: Agricultural Credit and Policy Council (ACPC), Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA), Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (PhilFIDA), Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries (PCAF), National Agribusiness Corporation (NABCOR), National Dairy Authority (NDA), National Food Authority (NFA), National Fisheries Research and Development Institute (NFRDI), National Irrigation Administration (NIA), National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS), National Tobacco Administration (NTA), Philippine Agricultural Development and Commercial Corporation (PADCC), Philippine Carabao Center (PCC), Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (PCIC), Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech), Philippine Fisheries Development Authority (PFDA), Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), Quedan Rural Credit and Guarantee Corporation (QUEDANCOR), Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC), and Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA).

Too many cooks spoil the broth – we need only one Executive Chef.

Partnership-conscious
Aside from learning to partner with the officers of the DA's own numerous bureaus, field offices and attached agencies, the new Secretary of Agriculture must be aware and adept at forging partnerships with the state, science, public, private, professional, church, citizen, philanthropic and peasant sectors. We are all in this together.

Respected leader here and abroad
Locally, our farms have to produce more; our farmer leaders have to encourage more farmers; and our Secretary has to lead them all, and he can do that if there is respect. Internationally, with the Asean Free Trade Area (AFTA) in operation, and since the Philippines needs to trade much in terms of agricultural produce, the Secretary of Agriculture of the Philippines must have the respect of AFTA members in any negotiations.

Visually optimistic
Above all, the new Secretary must exude hope and confidence. Hope in a brighter future and confidence that we can bring it about. Together.

The new Secretary of Agriculture will be our Messiah in Agriculture!



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