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Agro-Eco Philippines Helps Transition Filipino Farmers to Agroecological and Organic Regenerative Practices

DAVAO, PHILIPPINES – Nearly one year ago today, Regeneration International (RI) signed the “Regeneration Philippines” pact, a Memorandum of Understanding between the Filipino League of Organic Municipalities Cities and Provinces (LOAMCP) and RI. 

Fast forward to today and we are blessed to have reconnected virtually with our friends in the Philippines, this time, through the addition of a new RI partner, Agro-Eco Philippines (AEP), an organization dedicated to “building resilient farming communities and sustainable economies.”

AEP began its work with small farmers in Mindanao or the Southern Philippines in 1991. Today, the non-profit government organization (NGO) works with 4,000 individual farmers in 300 farmers’ organizations in Mindanao, eastern Visayas and eastern Luzon. 

Its mission is to advocate for Filipino’s right to healthy food, alleviate hunger in poverty-stricken farming communities and teach farmers organic regenerative and agroecological practices that produce healthy food, increase the socio-economic livelihood of farmers, and build resilience against the effects of climate change. 

AEP also invests in the development of local markets through community-led research to help boost profits for smallholder farmers.

AEP and its work transitioning conventional Filipino farmers to agroecological and organic regenerative agriculture practices is showcased in our “Trails of Regeneration” video series, which highlights stories of regeneration throughout the globe. 

In our latest episode, “Agro-Eco Philippines Helps Farmers Go Organic,” AEP’s Executive Director Geonathan Barro discusses how the NGO has trained an impressive number of farmers on organic practices. Barro told us in a Zoom interview:

“So far, we have trained roughly 10,000 conventional farmers to go organic. The key is to build on the hard labor of the previous years without relying on middle men or corporate entities to distribute and process our products.”

AEP is firm in its belief that the role humans play on farms is a key component of agroecology. According to its website

“Farmers . . . are critical actors in agroecological practice and agroecological transformation. They are stewards of biodiversity and the real keepers of relevant knowledge for this agenda. It is therefore important that agroecological knowledge and technologies are developed on the basis of farmers’ own knowledge and experimentation. Further, this means that agroecology has to be context-specific and culturally appropriate. Agroecology makes best use of the human, social, and environmental capital available locally.”

Green Revolution forces farmers into degenerative farming model

The future hasn’t always been so bright for some farmers in the Philippines.

Since the launch of the Green Revolution in the 1960s, Filippino farmers have largely depended on degenerative agricultural models that have forced millions of farmers into debt due to the high cost of chemical fertilizers and pesticides that over time eroded the soil and polluted waterways. 

More than half a century ago, the Filipiino government, with influence from the Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, created the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). In 1962, the IRRI crossed Dee-Geo-woo-gen and Peta rice strains to create IR8 or “miracle rice.” By 1981, “miracle rice” accounted for more than 80 percent of total rice crops in the Philippines.

The “miracle rice” produced high yieldsten times the amount of traditional rice varietiesallowing the Philippines to go from being an importer of rice to a global exporter.

Unfortunately, the benefits of the Green Revolution were short-lived. They were also outweighed by the rising costs of high-debt, falling income and the environmental consequences of chemical-intensive agriculture. 

This chain of events is found in many developing countries that fell victim to big agricultural corporations selling high-yielding seeds that provide productive harvests the first year, but then require major increases in chemical inputs the following year. 

The allure of high (but unsustainable) crop yields has led to a system of enslaved farmers whose farmlands have been rendered unproductive without the application of synthetic and chemical inputs.

Over time, pesticides destroy key microbes in the soil and alter its ability to retain nutrients and water, which makes farmers more vulnerable to drought, floods, pests and crop-related diseases. This escalates production costs that put smallholder farmers at risk of bankruptcy. 

Filippino farmers campaigning against Monsanto’s Golden Rice, promoting regenerative systems of rice intensification and defending local seed sovereignty.

AEP teaches farmers organic regenerative practices that benefit the environment and the community

AEP is working to break the patterns of conventional food and farming systems by providing smallholder farmers with free access to local indigenous seeds and information on practices such as composting, cover cropping, seed saving, crop rotation and the integration of livestock. 

It also teaches farmers about agroforestry, the incorporation of trees into agriculture, and encourages the exchange of knowledge between fellow farmers.

Agroecological and organic regenerative farming practices have never been more important. Like many nations around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to food shortages in the Philippines. 

The silver lining, however, is that empty store shelves have encouraged locals to buy directly from their farmer. Not only does this help small farmers, but it also provides families with safe, nutritious food that builds a strong immune system, Barro told RI.

Selling direct to consumers, and removing grocery stores from the equation, has allowed Filippino farmers to sell their products for less money. 

Luz Astronomo, an AEP member and small farmer from Davao City, Philippines, told RI in a Zoom interview that he’s able to sell his produce for 60 percent less than other produce because everything he needs to grow it comes from his farm, including the seeds and organic inputs.

“So, we don’t have to sell our products at a high price,” he said. 

In many localities, conventional farmers are now buying food from organic farmers because the monoculture systems they depend on are failing to compete with the diversified agroecological systems practiced by AEP’s members. Barro told RI:

“These are very difficult times brought about by COVID-19, but these very difficult times have painted us a picture of what kind of agriculture the world needs to overcome such crises.”

Organic regenerative agriculture helps fight climate change

In addition to producing healthier food, agroecological and organic regenerative farming practices help mitigate climate change by building healthy soil that draws down excess atmospheric carbon and stores it in the ground.

Farmers are instrumental in addressing climate change because they experience the impacts of a changing climate, Barro said.

AEP recognizes this, too, which is why it now offers a course on soil quality management to teach farmers how to better manage soil when dealing with pests, disease and climate extremes. 

Mr. René Garcia, also a small farmer and member of AEP, says regenerative agriculture practices help restore key microbes in the soil. Garcia told us in a Zoom interview:

 “We are practicing regenerative agriculture to return microorganisms to the soil that feed the plants. By using the systems of rice intensification, which can reduce flooding in rice paddies and dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and can also help conserve water and boost yields.”

AEP believes that all farmers can grow resilient to the effects of climate change by caring for their soil, ditching the toxic chemicals, producing and distributing food locally, and practicing and advocating for organic regenerative farming systems.

“Success stories of farmers that are working to mitigate and adapt to climate change will inspire people all over the world,” said Barro, adding that it gives people hope to know others are coming together to make this world a better place. 

Stay tuned for more stories of regeneration both in the Philippines and around the world. 

Oliver Gardiner represents Regeneration International in Europe and Asia. To keep up with news and events, sign up here for the Regeneration International newsletter.

Una superficie como un campo de fútbol se erosiona cada cinco segundos

Está ahí, justo bajo los pies, pero subyacente en el sentido amplio de la palabra. Bajo los cimientos de las casas, los cines y las fábricas, sustentando las carreteras que llevan a las playas, nutriendo a los alimentos exquisitos, acunando los lagos y ríos.., pero la función de este recurso, no renovable, va más allá. “Los niños que han tenido la dicha de jugar con el suelo saben un poco lo que es, pero los de la ciudad no tanto. Y es nuestro aliado silencioso, la mayoría de la comida se produce ahí, y también es un almacén natural de carbono, asume más que la vegetación terrestre y la atmósfera juntas, y eso es importante contra el calentamiento global. Además de aguardar microorganismos que proporcionan biodiversidad”, resume con brevedad Ronald Vargas, secretario de la Alianza Mundial por el Suelo, consciente de que este recurso natural no capta tanta atención como el agua en el mundo.

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The Fate of Planet Earth Lies in the Hands of Just Two Generations, Warns Climate Columnist David Wallace-Wells

The global impacts of global pollution are so terrifyingly vast and all-encompassing that fully comprehending the potential consequences can prove difficult for the human mind. 

If it continues unchecked, scientists warn1 of an increase in extreme weather including rising sea levels, intensified and more frequent wildfires, devastating flooding, stronger hurricanes and prolonged droughts — all of which are projected to have colossal and costly impacts on public health, agriculture, politics, economic growth and human migration. 

But there’s good news: Humans have the power to stop, and potentially reverse pollution, but only if appropriate action is taken immediately, and on a global scale. 

While most people think of the burning of fossil fuels as the primary driver of pollution, data point to industrial agriculture as the greatest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions. An estimated 44% to 57% of all greenhouse gases come from the global food system. This includes deforestation, agriculture, food waste and food processing, packaging, refrigeration and transportation.2

So, while some argue that, in addition to curbing greenhouse gas emissions and transitioning to 100% renewable energy, implementing new and costly carbon-capturing technology3 is the solution, mounting evidence points to a less costly and more natural solution: Harnessing the power of Mother Nature. 

This includes organic regenerative agriculture,4 which promotes soil health, biodiversity, soil carbon sequestration and large-scale ecosystem restoration such as reforestation and the restoration of peatlands, mangroves, salt marshes and other important ecosystem habitats capable of drawing down and storing excess atmospheric carbon.5

Climate Columnist: ‘The Main Driver of Future Warming Is What We Do Now’

What happens on Earth within the next century in regard to climate change depends on the action humans do or don’t take, said David Wallace-Wells, deputy editor and climate columnist for New York magazine, in a recent interview on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast. 

Wallace-Wells, who wrote “The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming,”6 says we tend to think about climate change as something that began centuries ago during the Industrial Revolution, but the truth is that in the history of mankind, 50% of all the carbon we’ve released into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels has occurred within the last 30 years.7

That means the fate of the entire planet may lie in the hands of just two generations, because what happens in the next 50 to 100 years from now will depend on how humans address climate change today, Wallace-Wells says.

Deadlier Wildfires in California

In the featured video, Rogan and Wallace-Wells discuss how climate change is worsening wildfires in California, causing the fires to burn hotter and more frequently. Science shows California wildfires could get up to 60 times worse as climate change intensifies, says Wallace-Wells. 

That’s an alarming prediction considering California, in the past two years, had some of the most destructive fires on record. In fact, the Mendocino wildfire in July 2018 was the state’s largest ever, causing 60% more damage than any fire before it.8

There are a number of ways in which climate change may be intensifying California wildfires. For starters, hotter temperatures can create a drying effect, turning once-green vegetation into flammable wildfire fuel. Secondly, scientists say climate change is shortening California’s rainy reason, and shifting the Santa Ana winds in a way that fan deadly wildfires in Southern California. 

In the podcast, Rogan says a firefighter once told him that with the right wind, it’s only a matter of time before a fire hits the top of Los Angeles, California, and burns all the way to the ocean, and there will be nothing anyone can do to stop it.

Development and urban sprawl are another reason wildfires could get a lot worse in California. When Native Americans stewarded the land, they often performed controlled burns to prevent the buildup of timber, but because some of America’s wealthiest elite insist on living in the California hills, controlled burns are out of the question, says Wallace-Wells. 

His observation leads to an interesting statement about how the situation in California is unique in that climate change tends to impact the world’s poorest first. But in places like Bel-Air, a ritzy upper-class neighborhood in Los Angeles, the effects of climate change are working in reverse as it has largely been the ultrarich who are most affected by wildfires. 

The damage has been both destructive and costly. Just three California wildfires, the Camp Fire, Woolsey Fire and the Hill Fire, are estimated to have killed 88 people, damaged or destroyed close to 20,000 structures and caused more than $9 billion in damage.9 Those costs may be just the tip of the iceberg.

Reposted with permission from Mercola

The Uninhabitable Earth

Author: David Wallace-Wells |  Published on: July 9, 2017

I. ‘Doomsday’

Peering beyond scientific reticence.

It is, I promise, worse than you think. If your anxiety about global warming is dominated by fears of sea-level rise, you are barely scratching the surface of what terrors are possible, even within the lifetime of a teenager today. And yet the swelling seas — and the cities they will drown — have so dominated the picture of global warming, and so overwhelmed our capacity for climate panic, that they have occluded our perception of other threats, many much closer at hand. Rising oceans are bad, in fact very bad; but fleeing the coastline will not be enough.

Indeed, absent a significant adjustment to how billions of humans conduct their lives, parts of the Earth will likely become close to uninhabitable, and other parts horrifically inhospitable, as soon as the end of this century.

Even when we train our eyes on climate change, we are unable to comprehend its scope. This past winter, a string of days 60 and 70 degrees warmer than normal baked the North Pole, melting the permafrost that encased Norway’s Svalbard seed vault — a global food bank nicknamed “Doomsday,” designed to ensure that our agriculture survives any catastrophe, and which appeared to have been flooded by climate change less than ten years after being built.

The Doomsday vault is fine, for now: The structure has been secured and the seeds are safe. But treating the episode as a parable of impending flooding missed the more important news. Until recently, permafrost was not a major concern of climate scientists, because, as the name suggests, it was soil that stayed permanently frozen. But Arctic permafrost contains 1.8 trillion tons of carbon, more than twice as much as is currently suspended in the Earth’s atmosphere. When it thaws and is released, that carbon may evaporate as methane, which is 34 times as powerful a greenhouse-gas warming blanket as carbon dioxide when judged on the timescale of a century; when judged on the timescale of two decades, it is 86 times as powerful. In other words, we have, trapped in Arctic permafrost, twice as much carbon as is currently wrecking the atmosphere of the planet, all of it scheduled to be released at a date that keeps getting moved up, partially in the form of a gas that multiplies its warming power 86 times over.

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