THE changing climate could have a dire effect on the fledgling economic integration of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), if the organization fails to factor in the impact of the altered climate on the region’s agriculture, an international nonprofit body said on Tuesday.
Many economies in the Asean, a single market where goods, labor and capital can flow freely, rely on the agriculture sector, and the effect of climate change on the sector is expected to result in a mean drop of 2.2 percent in the gross domestic product of several countries in Southeast Asia in 2100, Oxfam said, citing the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
According to Oxfam’s own recent report, Harmless Harvest, sustainable agriculture will help Asean members adapt in a changing climate, adding that sustainable agriculture will boost farmers’ incomes and ensure food security without racking up huge quantities of greenhouse-gas emissions, which are the culprit behind
global warming, Oxfam said in a statement.
Sustainable agriculture is a key ingredient for Asean economic integration to succeed, Riza Bernabe, policy coordinator of the Grow campaign of Oxfam in Asia, was quoted as saying, adding that as countries work together as one economic entity, so must they act together to boldly face the impact of climate change on a region that engages in food production and agricultural trade.
Oxfam is proposing the Systems of Rice Intensification (SRI), as a way of growing rice that optimizes harvests and incomes without degrading the environment, citing a study by the International Rice Research Institute that a 1-percent rise in minimum temperature during growing season can result in 10 drop in rice yield.
According to an online resource material of Cornell University’s College of Agriculture, SRI is a climate-smart, agroecological methodology for increasing the productivity of rice and, more recently, other crops by changing the management of plants, soil, water and nutrients.
Its methodology is based on four main principles that interact with each other, which include early, quick and healthy plant establishment; reduced plant density; improved soil conditions through enrichment with organic matter; and reduced and controlled water application. In addition to irrigated rice, the Cornell University said, the SRI principles have been applied to rainfed rice and to other crops, such as wheat, sugarcane, teff, finger millet, pulses, showing increased productivity over current conventional planting practices.
To bolster its own assessment, Oxfam also cited the findings of SK Redfern et al presented at the Food Agriculture Organization/Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development workshop in Rome, Italy, in 2012, where it was found that in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam, rainfall has been below average since 2009, resulting in droughts, which are associated with lower yields and increased pest and disease infestation. In 2013 Oxfam said, Supertyphoon Haiyan decimated swathes of coconut farms in central Philippines, on which thousands of families depend for their livelihood.
Currently, the Philippines is also experiencing a weak but persistent drought brought by the El NiNo, prompting the state-run National Food Authority to purchase some 500,000 metric tons of rice from its neighboring countries.
In Cambodia alone, Oxfam added, intense floods and droughts accounted for 90 percent of rice-production losses from 1996 to 2001.
The group also said that rising sea levels are also becoming a problem to coastal region, taking Indonesia as a case in point, with almost 15 percent of total rice output is affected by salinity, while in Vietnam, soil salination has affected 100,000 hectares in four provinces, adding that saltwater intrusion is also threatening rice production in Myanmar.
Asean governments must also pour in more money in helping small-scale farmers and fishermen adapt to climate change, and incentivize farmers to practice sustainable and agro-ecological farming, Bernabe added.