LOS BAÑOS Laguna, Philippines – In a joint move towards steering resilient communities in the country's agricultural sector, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture and the Embassy of France in the Philippines gathered 47 experts in a two-day "Forum on Reducing Disaster Risk towards a Resilient Agricultural Sector" on 29-30 August 2019 at the SEARCA headquarters. Members of the academe, farmer group leaders, agriculturists (local, municipal, provincial), disaster risk reduction and management practitioners, private sector and non-government organization representatives, national and local government officials and staff, international development organizations participated in this event.
The forum focused on capturing the bigger picture of the vulnerability that the agricultural sector faces as it critically looked into the robustness of current policies, adaptive capacity of institutions, as well as actions and mechanisms that are crucial in reducing risks and shocks from natural disasters.
Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio, SEARCA Director, underscored in his opening remarks the significance of strengthening the resiliency of the country's agricultural sector. He asserted that "The sector on which majority of our region's population depend on for food and livelihood is most vulnerable to the effects of natural disasters, especially climate change. The challenge, therefore, is to build the resiliency of the agricultural sector against these natural disasters and worsening climatic conditions."
He further stressed the vitality of translating the discussions from the two-day forum into collaborative and synergized interplay of interventions towards winning the war of climate change in the country, particularly at the grassroots level.
Mr. Jean-Jacques Forte, Counselor for Cooperation and Cultural Affairs of the Embassy of France in the Philippines, shared how the forum reflects the French Embassy and SEARCA's shared commitment to the long-term objective of strengthening post-disaster recovery programs for agricultural communities. He expressed high hopes that the forum will redound to more areas of common interests, interventions, and cooperation projects in the agricultural sector.
This forum was also an opportunity to develop Philippines-France cooperation in the field of research with the participation of two well-renowned French research institutes, CIRAD (Agricultural Research Center for Development) and IRD (Research Institution for Development). French expertise in soil conservation and ecological engineering was also given the limelight through the presentation of techniques developed by GECO Ingénierie.
On the first day, five major sessions featured 16 presentations from respected national and international leaders and experts in the sector, which highlighted the following topics: (i) national government policy frameworks and programs in support of agricultural resilience; (ii) local disaster governance in the agriculture sector; (iii) technology and research in support of resilience building; (iv) resilient strategies and mechanisms supported by development organizations; and (v) private enterprises' support platforms for disaster preparedness and post-recovery programs for agriculture.
Each session culminated with panel discussions, which further identified pragmatic and strategic areas for cooperation between and among the panelists and the participants. Topics discussed revolved on the responsiveness of DRR programs and challenges in its implementation at the local level; opportunities that development organizations can offer to agriculture and rural communities towards building resilience; innovative practices and programs to ensure sustainability of interventions; and existing modalities and mechanisms for support and assistance to target beneficiaries and communities in the agriculture sector.
On the second day, NGO representatives and farmer group leaders shared their experiences on the ground as they narrated the realities of some agricultural communities in the country. Participants then joined different workshop sessions, wherein each group outlined and presented their analysis on the existing risks and current strategies in place; gaps between available resources and needs; capacity building resources or support systems; and the facilitating and limiting factors towards improving action agenda for achieving sustainability of disaster-resilient agricultural sectors.
The two-day forum concluded with a unified pledge as participants signed a 'commitment statement' expressing a shared call to action and way forward towards building and sustaining disaster resilience in agricultural and rural communities in the Philippines.