Climate smart agriculture is also about going green


“CLIMATE smart farming, sometimes referred to as climate smart agriculture or CSA for short — is a farming method that aims to help the transition from traditional agricultural techniques to more sustainable, green, climate change-proof tactic.”

That is a statement from the article “Climate Smart Farming: All You Need to Know in 2022” posted on the greenly.resources website ( And I fully agree with that statement.

I have written several articles and delivered a good number of keynote speeches about CSA and discussed how to make the global and local food system more resilient to extreme weather changes. And for this column, let me discuss more on how CSA should also aim for food systems to be both sustainable and “green.”

And I must say when we pursue CSA with the primary aim of making it resilient against the effects of climate change, the aspect of making food systems “green” can get lost in the discussion. However, we cannot ignore the need to make food systems green or not harmful to the environment as we have witnessed how agriculture has become a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and environmental degradation.

According to the website of Our World in Data (, the global food system as a whole, which includes refrigeration, food processing, packaging and transport, accounts for about 25 percent of GHG emissions.

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Also, it mentioned that agriculture, forestry and related land use directly accounted for 18.4 percent of GHG emissions.

If there is any consolation, global energy production accounted for 73.2 percent of GHG emissions globally, according to Our World in Data.

So, let me restate the question asked in the article published in greenly.resources: “What is climate smart farming, and how can it help the agriculture industry and the environment at the same time?”

We have defined CSA at the beginning of this column, so let us answer the question on how it can help the industry and the environment.

In the context of the Philippines, CSA can save smallholder farmers from massive losses caused by strong storms and heavy rains, and drought. This, in turn, will allow them to continue producing food for our countrymen.

‘Low tech’ to the Fourth Industrial Revolution

I have already mentioned that among the resiliency measures that farmers can adopt to make their operations resilient to extreme weather events include low-tech” approaches such as rainwater impounding and harvesting, and aquifer recharging; forward-thinking approaches like adjusting the planting calendar and early harvesting before a storm; available and under development variants of crops that can thrive in flooded and drought conditions; and reforestation and watershed rehabilitation.

To make our food systems “green,” we must push for the following: application of more natural or organic methods or inputs; tap technologies from the Fourth Industrial Revolution; and reduce food miles.

When I speak of the application of more natural or organic methods or inputs, I am not advocating going 100-percent organic in growing crops even if this is possible. My reasoning for this is I have yet to see large-scale traditional farming that is 100-percent organic that can ensure high yields and provide affordable food, especially for the poor.

So, the most appropriate measure to make CSA more green is to reduce chemical use starting with insecticides and fertilizers. For eliminating the use of pesticides, green advocates will quickly point to integrated pest management (IPM) as one of the viable solutions.

IPM, which seeks to establish a natural environment for the enemy of pests to thrive, will work in an environment where no pesticides are used and where multicropping is practiced.

There are also natural pesticides that are gaining ground commercially in the market.

I am also a strong advocate of balanced fertilization, or combining the use of chemical and natural soil inputs to grow crops. And the raw materials to produce natural inputs to improve soil health are in abundance in farms like biowastes such as discarded rice straws and hulls.

In early 2022, the Department of Agriculture then under my leadership launched the Balanced Fertilization Strategy (BFS) to address the rising prices of fertilizers by promoting the wider adoption of balanced fertilization and use of inorganic fertilizers, through integrated nutrient management of practices for crops such as rice, vegetables, fruits, among others. The BFS also seeks to intensify support for soil testing and the use of growth-enhancing inputs such as biofertilizers, foliar and biostimulants.

BFS, if applied successfully, can improve soil health as chemical fertilizer use is reduced. And soil with more organic matter can improve its water-holding capacity, leading to lesser water use in farms.

There are also many options from the realm of the Fourth Industrial Revolution to make food systems more green, like utilizing artificial intelligence to monitor soil health, climatic conditions and progression of crop maturity; drones to apply inputs (not only chemical) more efficiently; and the Internet of Things to gather vital information so producers can make data- and science-based decisions that results in the more efficient use of resources.

Now to reducing food miles — this is not simple as it sounds, as it requires the production of food supplies for a population center from major farming enclaves that are not so far away. This will also require land use planning, as converting large swathes of agricultural lands near urban centers to host new for commercial, industrial and residential developments will require sourcing food from more distant agricultural enclaves.

Also, reducing food miles will require establishing an efficient cold chain system, so fresh farm produce delivered to urban centers can be stored for a long period, minimizing food waste in the process. I also propose that cold chain systems also be powered partly or in whole by renewables like solar energy.

I have already said much about CSA and how it can save our food system from extreme weather events. But I still believe that besides technology, political will is also important for CSA to take root, literally. I hope our politicians are listening.

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