Agriculture is an important driver of the economy of the Philippines. More than one-third of the country’s nearly 90 million inhabitants depend on agriculture and fishing for a living.
The country, an archipelago made up of more than 7 000 islands, is prone to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and typhoons. Around 20 typhoons strike the Philippines each year.
In September and October 2009, Tropical Storm Ketsana and Typhoons Parma and Mirinae battered the country, with Luzon Island, including the capital, Manila, witnessing some of its worst flooding in decades. More than a thousand people were killed, property and rice crops destroyed and some 10 million people affected as a result.
The frequency of such natural disasters has taxed the ability of the country’s urban and rural poor to rebound quickly, raising their risk of hunger and malnutrition. Malnutrition is also high on the southern island of Mindanao, where years of fighting and instability have left thousands displaced and in need of basic services.
Rice importing country
Rice is the main staple food and although the Philippines is a large producer of the grain, demand outpaces supply, forcing the country to rely on imports to make up the difference. In fact, the nation is one of the largest importers of rice in the world, leaving it particularly vulnerable to high and volatile rice prices.
European Union Food Facility
In 2008, the Government of the Philippines launched a plan to boost rice productivity in both irrigated and rain-fed areas throughout the country with a view to becoming self-sufficient in rice production by 2013.
The goal is to help rain-fed rice farming communities achieve higher yields through the use of small-scale irrigation systems and high quality seeds, better extension services and integrated crop management.
Most of the country’s poorest farmers depend on the weather to grow their crops. To reduce their exposure to risk, many are unwilling to invest in quality seeds and fertilizers. As a result, productivity is lower in these areas than in irrigated areas, where farmers have generally benefited from more extension services and training.
With €4.2 million from the European Union, FAO began implementing a 21-month project in October 2009 to support the Government in helping poor farmers in rain-fed areas grow more food and adopt sound water management and farming practices.
The project is supporting 3 600 small-scale vulnerable farming households in the provinces of Pangasinan, Tarlac, Neuva Ecija, Pampanga and Bulacan, areas which were also affected by the floods in September and October 2009.
The farmer field school approach is being used to deliver services and develop farmers’ skills such as the application of new technologies, water-saving techniques and integrated crop management practices including pest, disease and nutrient management. Farmers are also receiving certified seeds and fertilizers.
The project is focused on strengthening capacity at all levels, including the Government’s institutional capacity to expand small-scale irrigation systems to more rice farmers in rain-fed areas.
At the height of the food price crisis in 2008, FAO launched a Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP) project worth USD 500 000 to ensure the availability of enough affordable rice for the entire country and to contribute to the Government’s longer-term goal of becoming self-sufficient in rice production. The project’s twin objectives focussed on: increasing rice production and productivity rapidly through the distribution of quality rice seeds and fertilizers to small-scale farmers; and boosting the incomes of rice farmers.
FAO has also been supporting a number of emergency projects to help families affected by floods and other natural disasters.
A Flash Appeal was launched in 2009 in response to the extensive damage wrought by a tropical storm and two typhoons. The Agriculture Cluster appealed for USD 10 million to assist 150 000 vulnerable farming households in Luzon. Of this, FAO pledged for USD 9 million, of which the Government of Belgium committed just over USD 1.5 million to provide agricultural assistance to 16 500 flood-affected farming communities as well as support to the agriculture emergency and rehabilitation coordination. Spain committed USD 857 740 for a similar emergency project to help restore the food security of 10 406 farmers in another flood-affected region.
FAO launched a TCP project in 2009 to strengthen capacities for climate risk management and disaster preparedness in selected provinces in the country’s Bicol region.