Landless farmers bear the brunt of drying effects of El Niño in southern Mindanao.
85 per cent of the country is projected to experience drought due to El Niño by the end of April.
Government declares a state of national calamity as three weather disturbances affect the Philippines.
24,600 people remain displaced in Zamboanga as it faces serious water shortage.
Small-scale farmers bear the brunt of El Niño in southern Mindanao
Breadbasket of Mindanao hit by prolonged dry spell
While the rain brought by Typhoon Melor (known locally as Nona), Tropical Depression Onyok and the northeast monsoon was much-needed respite from the drying effects of El Niño, large areas of the Philippines are expected to face drought in the coming months.
Small-scale farmers in southern Mindanao are already suffering a big drop in crop production, and fear that El Niño might push them further into debt.
Region XII of the Philippines, composed of South Cotabato, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani provinces, is considered to be the breadbasket of Mindanao.
Mindanao accounts for over 40 per cent of the country’s food requirements and contributes more than 30 per cent to the national food trade according to FAO.
Farmers here produce staple crops including rice and corn and cultivate large plantations of cash crops such as bananas and pineapples.
The prevailing El Niño has led to dry conditions in 2015. Sarangani province in particular recorded below-normal (40-80 per cent of average) rainfall for seven months and waybelow-normal (less than 40 per cent of average) rainfall for three months, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA).
Landless farmers without coping mechanisms suffer production loss
For Jennie Korbo, a small-scale farmer in Alabel municipality of Sarangani, waiting for the rain was not an option. She grows corn on her rented 1.8-hectare land, which yields 3.7 tons or 148 sacks of corn during a normal farming season. Due to frequent water shortage this season, her corn has been withered and she is expecting to harvest less than 1 ton or about 40 sacks.
Though she had heard about El Niño and its effects on the radio, she took the risk of planting in August 2015 because she could not afford to delay harvest. In addition to PhP7,000 (US$147) annual rent for the farmland, Jennie had borrowed P30,000 ($628) to buy seeds, fertilizer and chemical spray for the corn. With most of her corn damaged, she lost over P10,000 ($209) net profit this season and can pay back only P8,000 ($167) out of her loans. A working mother of five, Jennie is worried her family might remain in debt for several farming seasons to come.
Many landless farmers in Mindanao share similar stories. While they cultivate one of the richest farmlands in the country, they are often chronically food insecure. A single bad harvest can strain their already-poor access to food as well as their income to purchase alternatives. Coupled with low literacy levels and a dependence on rural livelihoods, they find it extremely difficult to cope with the impact of El Niño.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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