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Rapport Organic farming in the Philippines

- Rice growers and researchers learning from each other in a unique plant breeding project to increase biological diversity and decrease vulnerability

Text: Jakob Lundberg and Fredrik Moberg, Albaeco Production: Albaeco Graphic design: Christine Clifstock, Clifstock Form Project director: Karin Hk, Swedish Society for Nature Conservation Cover and photo work: Christine Clifstock Cover picture: Achim Pohl (Shows the male parts being removed from the rice flower. Pollen from the variety to be crossed in is then applied by hand). Printing: tta.45, Solna 2011 ISBN: 91 558 1671 1 Item number: 9362 Produced with financial support from Sida. Sida did not participate in production of this report and takes no official position on the views presented.


1. Introduction 2. Shortcuts? 3. Rice farming based on diversity and ecosystem services in an increasingly warm climate 4. Researchers and farmers learn from each other 5. Conclusions 6. Recommendations 7. Sources and recommended reading

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A paradigm shift is needed in order for agriculture to deal with climate change and cope with the increasing demand for food production without generating serious environmental side-effects. The activities of the organisation MASIPAG in the Philippines is one of a number of good examples indicating that such developments are possible. By increasing the focus on ecosystem services and creating a unique partnership through which farmers and researchers collect, improve and grow different varieties of rice, it has been possible to improve profitability, secure livelihoods, increase stakeholder participation and decrease vulnerability to climate change. The social standing, diet and health of local people have also been improved. This is the third report in a series presenting positive examples of ways to develop agriculture based more on local resources, biological diversity and ecosystem services. Together, these examples show that it is possible to decrease the need for chemicals and fossil fuels while rendering agriculture less vulnerable to climate change. The present report highlights the work being done by the network organisation MASIPAG to develop more sustainable agriculture in the Philippines. The MASIPAG model for sustainable rural development integrates ecological and socioeconomic aspects and is fully in line with the rapid transition prescribed by a growing number of relevant international expert studies; a paradigm shift in favour of sustainable cultivation methods that really benefit the worlds approx. 500 million small farmers and contribute to secure access to food for the worlds poorest people. The report concludes with a number of recommendations that we hope will inspire practitioners and decision-makers to take more sustainable decisions, both nationally and in the international arena. For example, we conclude that there is a need for increased work on diversitybased farming that promotes local rice varieties with traits such as tolerance to flooding and salinisation. We also draw the conclusion that support for the agricultural sector in the South should focus more on spreading risk and improving adaptive capacity than it does at present. This can take the form of protecting the rights to general use of genetic resources and the freedom of the worlds smallholders to breed, save and exchange seed. The report was produced by Albaeco on behalf of the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation. The work on the report was carried out within the framework of the Swedish Society for Nature Conservations international environmental policy programme in collaboration with Albaeco and researchers from Stockholm University and the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. This report would not have been possible without the valuable help we received from MASIPAG and its personnel and from the 35 000 local farmers involved in its network. The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation expresses its warmest thanks to all those concerned.

Mikael Karlsson Chairman, Swedish Society for Nature Conservation

MASIPAG is a network organization for NGOs, researchers and small farmers who are working together to develop sustainable agriculture in the Philippines. In total, the organization reaches about 35 000 farmers in the three main regions of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

1. Introduction
Many believe that a comprehensive change of course is needed if agriculture is to cope with climate change and meet the growing demand for food. The activities of the organisation MASIPAG in the Philippines show that such change is possible. Its focus is on local resources and ecosystem services, combined with deliberate action to maintain and increase biological diversity. With the help of e.g. advisory work, farmer-led local plant breeding and pest control without chemicals, this approach has resulted in increased yields, secured livelihoods and decreased vulnerability to climate change. In other words, the MASIPAG model for sustainable rural development integrates ecological, social and economic aspects. This is fully in line with the rapid transition prescribed by an increasing number of international studies by experts in the area.
The green revolution in agriculture in the 1960s and 1970s was in many ways very successful. When irrigation, high yielding seeds, chemical pesticides and artificial fertilisers were combined, crop yields doubled in many areas of the world. The price of the staple crops that feed the majority of the worlds population decreased, allowing more people access to food. However, there were a range of problems. Not everyone could afford the external inputs required to increase yields and over time it transpired that modern farming methods often had very environmentally damaging effects. Soil salinisation, poisoned wells, decreased biological diversity, lowered groundwater levels, eutrophied lakes and debt-encumbered small farmers were some of the negative side-effects. Now, when there is an increasing call for a further intensification of agriculture to meet the increasing demand, it is questionable whether a further scaling up of the green revolutions industrial production methods is the solution to the global food crisis. According to FAO (2009), enough food is being produced at present to feed the entire global population. Despite this, over a billion people world-wide are suffering from hunger and chronic malnutrition. The question is what has gone wrong. To investigate this, agencies such as the World Bank, UNEP, FAO and WHO initiated a several-year project, the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD). The aim was to gather politicians, researchers, producers, consumers and nongovernment organisations together to find out how we could best reduce hunger, malnutrition and poverty in the world. In its final report, IAASTD concluded that the increases in production achieved in the past 30 years with the help of technology and science have reached the worlds poor to a very limited extent. The six-year long study included around 400 experts from

Photo: Achim Pohl

Box 1: The green revolution

The green revolution that began during the 1960s involved using plant breeding and new agricultural methods (irrigation, pesticides and artificial fertiliser) to help deprived, developing countries. This brought about a doubling in global food production, but also environmental degradation (e.g. water eutrophication, species eradication and poisoned groundwater) and it tended to favour rich farmers and food companies.

A large and important part of MASIPAGs activities is the unique collaboration between researchers and farmers to collect, refine and test different varieties of rice.

throughout the world and recommended a paradigm shift within agriculture in favour of ecologically sustainable crop production methods that do not simply benefit industrial farming but also the worlds several hundred million subsistence farmers. Similar conclusions were reached by the UNs Millennium Ecosystem Assessment in 2005, which recommended that the range of subsidies available for agriculture must be fundamentally changed so that they promote sustainable, less chemical-intensive agriculture. In addition, there are a number of climate-related reasons for transforming agriculture, as mentioned e.g. by the UNs Environmental Programme in the report The Natural Fix? The Role of Ecosystems in Climate Mitigation (2009). This concluded that the agricultural

sector would be predominantly carbon-dioxide neutral by 2030 if sustainable farming methods were applied on a large scale, for example by replacing energy-demanding artificial fertiliser with local recycling systems that include composting and the use of farmyard manure and green manure. Another way is to actively enhance the capacity of agricultural soils to bind carbon, for example through ploughless tillage. This is regarded as particularly important in the tropics, where ploughing exposes the susceptible soils to strong sunlight and rain, which rapidly deplete the organic matter content of the soil and thus its carbon-binding capacity. Agroforestry where trees and bushes are combined with various crops has particularly high potential as a carbon sink in tropical areas, according to IAASTD (2008).

Table 1. Comparisons of rice yields (mean values) show no differences between conventional production and MASIPAG organic production in 2007 (Bachmann et al., 2009) Rice production 2007 (kg/ha)

Luzon Visayas Mindanao (Maximum)

MASIPAG (organic rice growing) 3743 (ns) 2683 (ns) 3767 (ns) (8710) ns= no significant difference

Conventional rice production 3851 (ns) 2626 (ns) 4131 (ns) (8070)

MASIPAG unique partnership for development between farmers and researchers

The organisation MASIPAG in the Philippines has been working since 1987 for justice and better conditions for the countrys small farmers. Today the organisation is managing no less than 35 000 organic farmers. Its successes are based on a unique partnership between small farmers and researchers, which has led to increasing numbers of farmers opting to grow organically and thus avoid getting into debt to buy expensive production inputs such as chemical pesticides, artificial fertilisers and seed. Interestingly, yields in organic rice production are generally equivalent (no statistical difference) to those in conventional production, with a slight trend over time for organic yields to increase and conventional yields to decrease somewhat. However, net income per hectare cultivated is significantly higher for the organic farmers than for the conventional, who have higher input costs (see Tables 1 and 2; Bachmann et al., 2009). Similar trends have been reported in many other field trials around the world (see Badgley et al., 2007; UNEP-UNCTAD, 2008). The MASIPAG organisation was created by a group of farmers and researchers during the green revolution as a reaction to rice production in the Philippines being intensified with the aid of chemical pesticides, commercial fertilisers and high yielding varieties of rice. The farmers claimed that this had given rise to growing health problems due to pesticides, soil depletion and the loss of important species that had thrived in the former diversity-based cropping systems. The core of the organisations activities is farmer-driven plant breeding based on local breeds and varieties. By collecting and breeding different local varieties of rice in order to better adapt rice cropping to varying environmental conditions, more reliable yields are

obtained. An equally important aspect is that based on the farmer-driven plant breeding, the organisation together with researchers and voluntary groups is driving development and strengthening the local and economic situation of the rural population. The diversity of indigenous rice varieties is thus an important foundation for the sustainable farming methods that MASIPAG develops, since it means that farmers are less dependent on loans and expensive production inputs such as seed and chemical fertilisers. Researchers and farmers are together improving organic production methods by combining research results with practical experience. Some other key components of MASIPAG are: Continual exchanges of knowledge between farmers in order to spread experiences and information. A decentralised decision-making process where the focus is on farmers rights. Collaboration between different farms in the village a system that is good in organic farming since such systems can be very labour-intensive in some periods. Diversification of production, i.e. instead of farmers just growing rice that they sell at the market, they also grow e.g. fruit and vegetables for household use and sell the surplus. This increases food security and decreases vulnerability to fluctuations in price and demand. Composting particularly important in the lowland with its poor soils and long history of monoculture, e.g. of sugarcane. Improvement of local animal breeds, e.g. poultry and pigs. Resistance to the introduction of genetically modified crops that lead to problems with incorporation of new GM genes in indigenous varieties, decreases diversification, greater vulnerability, poorer local control and increased dependence on borrowing.

Table 2. Comparisons of net agricultural income in conventional production and MASIPAG organic rice production in 2007 show that the latter was more profitable. (Bachmann et al., 2009)

Net income from rice farming per hectare in 2007 (pesos)

Region Luzon Visayas Mindanao National income average MASIPAG (organic rice growing) 24 412** 22 868** 23 715 (ns) 23 599*** Conventional rice production 13 403** 13 728** 19 588 (ns) 15 643***

*** = very highly significant differences (p<0.0001) ** = highly significant differences (p<0.05) ns = no significant difference

Jojo is one of MASIPAGs 35 000 farmers. He is a farmer-researcher who is testing his way through different rice varieties. He also applies biological pest control, for example by promoting dragonflies that keep pest insects in check (above right). Photo Jakob Lundberg.

Portrait 1: Jojo Elpidio Paglumotan, one of MASIPAGs 35 000 farmers

Jojo used to be a plantation worker without any land of his own. At the sugar plantation he earned around roughly 3 US$ per day for approximately eight months per year and for the rest of the time the family had no income. After a long-running conflict with the authorities, the members of his farmers association on the island of Negros obtained the right to own their own land. A number of the farmers ended up in prison before they finally won their rights from the government. Today Jojo owns half a hectare of land, half of which is used for rice cultivation and the other half for

vegetables. In addition to this he has 8 goats, 16 hens, 2 water buffaloes, 3 turkeys and 8 ducks. Jojo is one of MASIPAGs 65 farmer-researchers who are breeding new varieties of rice for the organisation. He is able to choose the varieties he wants to develop. He uses simple but effective methods to keep pests in check without having to spray his plots. One of the main problems for rice growers in the Philippines is apple snail (Pomacea canaliculata), but Jojo has had no major problems since MASIPAG recommended that he allow his ducks to wander around in the rice fields. They eat the snails and also restrict the amount of weeds. Jojos rice fields also have numerous red dragonflies (see photo above). They are the natural enemy of a number of pest insects and are an example of a beneficial insect that is strikingly absent from crops treated with chemical pesticides.

MASIPAG is an abbreviation of the name Partnership for Development between Farmers and Researchers in Filipino. It is a network organisation for voluntary organisations, researchers and small farmers who are interested in sustainable farming. The organisation was founded at a farmers meeting in 1985 as a reaction to a number of problems that had arisen due to the countrys agriculture policy and the green revolution. A group of agricultural researchers also took part in the meeting and reported on studies showing a range of negative side-effects of the new agricultural methods and that the new hybrid varieties did not always give rise to higher yields. Together, farmers and researchers saw an opportunity to establish a partnership concerning rice growing and a project was established in which traditional varieties were documented. Over the years, this project has become very successful and has collected over 1000 local rice varieties and also developed over 1000 rice varieties through breeding. Today, around 35 000 farmers are involved in the work of MASIPAG. The organisation carries out research in collaboration with various universities, trains small farmers in sustainable cultivation methods and is working to develop local organic markets.


There are different ways to improve the rice genes and enhance various properties. Genetic engineering is one way and the traditional plant breeding that MASIPAG conducts another. Photo: Achim Pohl (Flowering rice).

2. Short-cuts?
In order to meet the increasing demand for food in the world and to cope with climate change, many are placing their trust in genetically modified crops. However, the work of MASIPAG has shown that it is possible to obtain equally good and reliable yields through preserving cultivated and wild biological diversity. Correctly used, the local traditional varieties can also decrease the susceptibility to climate change and strengthen the position of the rural population by decreasing the need for loans and securing livelihoods.
Every day, this planet gains around 200 000 new mouths to feed. In addition, urbanisation and increasing standard of living in many parts of the world are tending to result in more resource-demanding food choices. If these trends continue, global agricultural production must increase sharply by 2050 (FAO, 2009). At the same time, climate-related yield decreases are affecting many of the poorest smallholders in a number of regions. Some experts claim that the salvation for future food production lies in creating new crops with the help of gene technology that give better nitrogen use efficiency, higher yields and greater resistance to pests, drought and heat. Others believe that the new technology can have an important role to play in future food production but that as long as gene technology is so strongly linked to industrial agriculture, which requires the use of expensive chemicals and other fossil fuel-based inputs, it is doubtful whether it can help poor smallholders. The debate on genetically modified organisms also deals to a great extent with who actually owns the rights to local biological diversity. Over millennia, farmers have bred an enormous diversity of local varieties of rice, barley, wheat, soyabean, maize and other crops. When gene technology companies have used these local varieties without paying for them to create patented varieties that cannot, or may not, be saved, bred from or exchanged with other growers, the criticism has intensified. The companies thereby gain free access to an enormous variation of genes, while using patents to limit the right of farmers to save seed and extend this variation. They call a variety of rice their own simply because they have put one or two genes into a plant that has ten thousand genes. This means denying us our rights, our cultural heritage and taking something invaluable from us, said one of the farmers in MASIPAG. Often, farmers are encouraged to abandon their tra-


ditional varieties with the help of strongly subsidised seed and promises of high yields, without being informed about the disadvantages. MASIPAG does not base its opposition primarily on the possible health risks associated with eating genetically modified crops, but rather on its belief that gene technology concentrates far too much on industrial agriculture that is not sustainable in the long run and far too little on poor small farmers. Others point out that at the present time, we actually know too little about the environmental and health risks that can arise in the long term when genetically modified organisms spread into natural ecosystems. A long-term study in the UK showed for example that there was considerably less diversity of insects in the proximity of fields of genetically modified crops compared with other crops. That in turn had a negative effect on birdlife (Stokstad and Vogel, 2003). Overall, it can be concluded that there is lack of knowledge about the risks and therefore that much greater caution is needed if genetically modified crops are to seriously help decrease hunger and cope with future food production in a way that is sustainable in the long term.

Network-based plant breeding within MASIPAG

MASIPAGs activities in the Philippines are a shining example that it is possible to increase yields using local plant breeding and modern organic production. Within the MASIPAG programme it is mainly rice that is

bred, but maize is also included to a small extent. The farmers within MASIPAG are organised in different cooperatives, often comprising 12-60 farmers. Each cooperative has to have an experimental farm, where at least 50 different local varieties are grown. The experimental activities can be managed by the cooperative or rotate between different farms. The other farms in the cooperative have to grow at least three of the varieties from the experimental farm. The cooperative then selects the 10 best varieties, which become MASIPAG seed. This seed is offered free of charge to farmers. The only condition is that the recipient in turn must offer the variety material to any others interested within the network. This gives rise to an enormous spread and a huge range of different varieties. It is also a source of pride for farmers if their own varieties become widely distributed. In 2008, the MASIPAG gene bank consisted of 1090 varieties of rice bred through MASIPAG activities and 75 traditional varieties of maize. In addition to better finances, security and health, many farmers in the network emphasise that one of the major advantages with MASIPAG is their new pride and the culture of sharing with others that has developed. Thus MASIPAGs activities are as much about social development and participation as about organic farming methods. Today the entire network that has been built up around traditional rice breeding is also an important platform for democracy, participation and shared decision-making.

Box 3: Genetically modified crops what are they?

When crops are genetically modified their inherited genes are altered with the help of laboratory techniques, in a way that often cannot occur in nature or through conventional plant breeding. It is also possible to move genes between plants and animals. Soyabean, maize, rape and cotton are the most common genetically modified crops today, but rice and potato are becoming more common. The most common trait is increased tolerance to chemical pesticides.


Portrait 2: Jaime Gibe, manager of MASIPAGs national research farm and gene bank
Jaime is the manager of the experimental farm that maintains the over one thousand rice varieties produced by the MASIPAG network and 800 traditional varieties that they continually grow on the farm. In the picture (above) Jaime is standing on front

of shelves containing 744 different MASIPAG rice varieties and 744 traditional varieties. The different varieties all have different characteristics. Some of the selection criteria are taste, consistency, smell, ear length, cooking properties, straw length and yield. One of the points of MASIPAG encouraging its members to grow as many as 50 different varieties per group of farms is that it creates the conditions of greater resilience (see Box 9) to climate variations, pests and diseases, for example, long ears are considered to be good in dry seasons and short better in wet conditions. MASIPAG has three experimental farms: the national farm at Luzon, one at Visayas and one at Mindanao.

Box 4: Patents on genes

There are several strongly criticised examples of companies in industrialised countries taking out patents on species, varieties and genetic material in developing countries. In practice, these companies are thereby annexing plant genes which inhabitants of those countries have used for generations. This is generally referred to as biological theft or biocolonialism (biopiracy) and exemplifies the question of who actually owns the rights to genetic resources. An example is the conflict that arose in 1994 when an American company was awarded a patent (U.S. Patent No. 5.663.484) on the use of traditional basmati rice.


Box 5: Golden rice: Unnecessary or the salvation for poor people with vitamin A deficiency?
Golden rice is genetically modified with the help of genes from other plants, mainly daffodil and maize. These genes give the rice a yellow or golden hue and cause it to produce -carotene, which is then converted to vitamin A in the body. The aim behind introducing this gene into local rice varieties is to help combat vitamin A deficiency and protect the sight of all those children in poor countries who become blind every year due to vitamin A deficiency. However, some claim that this golden rice is simply a way for giant multinational agribusinesses to smuggle genetically modified crops to the worlds poor. Many researchers have pointed out that the first versions of golden rice had much too low a -carotene content to produce sufficient quantities of vitamin A. Nutrition experts also reported that undernourished women and children have difficulty utilising the -carotene unless the rest of their diet is improved. However, the researchers behind golden rice claim that later versions of the rice produce much higher concentrations of -carotene and should be regarded as a dietary supplement rather than as a replacement for a varied diet. Many believe that poverty is the main problem and that it is therefore more important to improve the opportunities for poor people to grow or buy vitamin A-rich fruits, vegetables and other foods. In Bangladesh, for example, blindness in children has been almost eliminated by promoting vegetable growing and by handing out vitamin A capsules. In a similar way, research has shown that MASIPAGs diversity-based farming system has led to improvements in the nutrition of the local population. With the right knowledge, it is also easy to obtain sufficient vitamin A with the help of wild leafy plants. Golden rice may make a positive contribution that can be of benefit to poor countries. However, it is important to note that this is just a small contribution to the problem of malnutrition that prevails in many poor countries and that other strategies focusing on diversity in farming, with production of a range of crops with a broad nutritional base can be far more important. Furthermore, more field trials and assessments are needed before we have sufficient knowledge about the health or environmental risks of the genetically modified rice.

Box 6: GM crops decrease diversity

Developing and patenting new crops is a time-consuming and very expensive process. Therefore most of the genetically modified crops that exist today are developed and owned by a few multinational companies whose products are protected by international patent regulations. This generally limits the scope of small farmers to save seed and develop locally adapted varieties. However, golden rice (see Box 5) is an exception that is planned to be offered to small farmers in the South at no patent cost and with the rights to save seed. To date, gene technology is so expensive that it is not financially viable to produce many genetically different varieties. The few varieties that are developed therefore risk being adapted to completely different environmental conditions than those of the intended growing site. The limited genetic variation also limits the ability of the plants to adapt to the types of rapid changes in local conditions that are predicted to occur with global warming. However, with a great range of local varieties the adaptive capacity is higher and there is thus a greater chance of good yields in the changing conditions. Some claim that aggressive marketing of genetically modified seed, artificial fertilisers and pesticides has caused many local varieties to be overlooked. Farmers who had previously saved seed year after year no longer save the seeds of their own local rice, maize and soyabean varieties once they change to genetically modified seed. Therefore, the development of genetically modified crops and existing patent regulations risk leading to decreased diversity of food crops in the world. Overall, this can pose a great risk to diversity farming and the possibilities for poor smallholders to adapt to future climate and environmental changes.


In the Philippines, climate change involves more severe rainfall events and flooding. Studies carried out within the MASIPAG network show that the farmers who have converted to organic diversity farming are better prepared to cope with climate change. Photo: Achim Pohl.

3. Rice farming based on diversity and ecosystem services in an increasingly warm climate
uring the green revolution, rice growing in the Philippines underwent fundamental changes. Where hundreds or thousands of different varieties had previously been grown, in the 1960s most rice farmers went over to growing a few commercial varieties on large areas. However, the decline in the old rice varieties and the more chemical-intensive agriculture led to a range of problems. Now MASIPAG are searching high and low for the old varieties in order to re-introduce them and render rice cropping less dependent on pesticides and more tolerant of climate change.
Before the green revolution, large numbers of different rice varieties were grown throughout Asia. These were adapted to the specific soil texture, temperature, rainfall, wind conditions, nutrients, insects, etc. at the growing site. In the beginning of the 1900s, there were more than 100 000 different varieties of rice in Asia, ranging from rice that could grow on harsh mountain slopes to varieties that could grow under several weeks of flooding. In the Philippines, more than 4000 varieties of rice were used in the 1950s today after the green revolution, only eight varieties dominate the countrys rice growing. Similar developments have taken place around the world and together these have caused a rapid decline in the global biological diversity to be found in agriculture, forestry and aquaculture. For example, four species rice, maize, wheat and potato currently represent around half the plant-based energy intake of humanity. Similarly, almost half the global production of meat comes from only a few breeds of pigs, chicken and cattle. The high yielding rice varieties that took over in the Philippines during the green revolution are often


Euni (see portrait below) runs a diversity farm that includes forest, rice, maize, sorghum and bananas, as well as vegetables such as haricot beans, aubergines and tomatoes. He has a well planned schedule for how the farm should be managed so that nutrients can be recycled in the best possible way. Photo: Achim Pohl.

grown in monocultures with lower resilience (see Box 9) to diseases, pests and climate change. To keep profits and yields high, there is often a need for a range of fossil fuel-consuming and environmentally damaging external inputs such as large-scale irrigation, pesticides and artificial fertilisers something that poor farmers can seldom afford. The rice farmers within MASIPAG are trying to avoid this non-sustainable technological phase and instead increase productivity through farming based on local knowledge and diversity plus new knowledge about ecosystem services (see summary in table on following page). Research has also shown that local varieties can give as high yields as hybrid varieties (Bachmann et al., 2009). In the Philippines, climate change involves e.g. rising sea levels, more severe rain events and flooding and salt water intrusion deteriorating groundwater quality. Studies carried out within the MASIPAG network show that those farmers who have converted fully to organic, diversity farming are better prepared to cope with climate change (Bachmann et al., 2009). Some of the strategies that the organic farmers within MASIPAG use to enhance resilience and adapt their crops to climate change are summarised in Table 3.

Portrait 3: Euni Eugenio Geraldo, diversity farmer from Mindanao

After losing his wife in childbirth, Euni is singlehandedly raising his six children on five hectares of

land. Up until 1999 he sprayed his rice and vegetable crops with chemical pesticides to protect them against insects and diseases. However, after going on a course organised by MASIPAG he began to grow organically. One of the main reasons was that his eyes had been damaged by pesticides and he had lost some of his sight. However, he also wanted to preserve biological diversity. According to Euni, the pesticides affected the natural pest control system and resulted in the disappearance of beneficial insects and birds. In addition, he wanted his children to have more nutritious food. Today he is a MASIPAG farmer, which means e.g. that the organisation trains him in the use of new cultivation techniques and rice breeding, which he then transfers to other farmers. Today Euni has great ecological knowledge and a well planned schedule for how the farm should be managed so that nutrients can be recycled in the best possible way. His diversity farm includes rice, maize, sorghum and bananas, as well as vegetables such as haricot beans, aubergines and tomatoes. He also has half a hectare of forest. The forest is a source of water for my crops, while also promoting the natural enemies of pests. From it I also get coconuts that we can eat or sell in the market. On the hills around the rice fields he grows the tree Madre de cacao (mother of cocoa), which is so named because cocoa and coffee grow very well in its shade. In addition, the roots of this tree fix nitrogen and extract nutrients from deeper soil layers than other crops. The leaves can also be used as fodder and the branches for firewood, according to Euni. His cropping system also includes ducks, which he rears on crop trash, and fish ponds where he keeps tilapia and sells some at the market in the neighbouring village.


In the MASIPAG network of farmers, diversity, collaboration and learning are key components that create good conditions for adapting agriculture to climate and environmental change. Photo: Achim Pohl.

Table 3. Different strategies for enhancing resilience and increasing the ability to adapt to climate change (Source: Bachmann et al. 2009) Climate effect Strategy
Planting specialist grass varieties that prevent soil erosion, plant breeding aimed at producing varieties that can cope with long periods of rain, crop rotation, establishment of agroforestry and types of integrated cropping systems (several different varieties of crops in the same field) Diversification of crops and sources of income Planting more trees, support for the creation of social structures that allow cooperation so that affected farmers can get help from others. Planting vegetation that gives protection from the wind (e.g. bamboo, cocoa palm, mahogany) Use of MASIPAG varieties that are specially bred to cope with salinised soil, restoration of coastal mangrove forests, which protect the coast against erosion and flooding.

Uncertain rainfall

Temperature change Increased risk of landslides Strong winds

Saltwater intrusion, sea level rise

Box 7: Ecosystem services

Ecosystem services are all the benefits provided by ecosystems. Human welfare and development are completely dependent on these services, for example air and water purification, climate stabilisation, erosion control, pollination of crops, natural pest control, the capacity of the sea to produce fish and the capacity of ecosystems to mitigate the effects of natural disasters.


able 4. Matrix showing examples of important cultivation methods in MASIPAG farming and the different ecosystem services promoted by the respective methods. The number of + signs indicates the magnitude of the effect on the ecosystem service:

Ecosystem services promoted by the respective agricultural methods used by MASIPAG

Farmer-led breeding based on local varieties and breeds Crop rotations with integrated N-fixing legumes and bacteria Use of plant and household wastes for production of animal feed Biological control of weeds and pests Planting of multifunctional trees and other plants at field edges Terracing

Ecosystem services (subdivided according to Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005), excluding Cultural services)

Deliberate improvement of Soil fertility through adding organic material,e.g. animal manure and compost

Provisioning ecosystem services (goods)

+++ + +++ ++ +++ +++ + ++ ++ ++ ++ ++ + ++ ++ ++ ++ + +++ +++ +++ ++ +++ +++



Fibre and energy

Ornamental plants

Biochemicals, natural medicines etc.

Maintenance and proliferation of biological information

Maintenance and proliferation of genetic information

Freshwater supply

Supporting ecosystem services

+++ ++ ++ + ++ + + +++ ++ ++ +++ ++ +++ ++ +++ + +++ + + +++ ++ +++ + +

Photosynthesis/production of biomass


Soil production


Improvement of water-holding capacity


Improvement of soil structure


Nutrient recycling


Biological N fixation


Ability to capture water

Regulating ecosystem services

+ +++ + +++ +++ +++ + ++ ++ + ++ ++ + + ++ + ++ +++ + ++ + + + + ++ + +++ ++ ++ ++ +


Control of weeds and pests

Erosion protection


Mitigation of natural disasters


Mitigation of flooding


Mitigation of drought


Preservation of favourable local climate

Carbon binding


Farmers perspective on effect of method on living conditions

Stable and relatively low production in all years

Control of production, less debt, decreased vulnerability

Decreased vulnerability in farming, more varied diet

Increased production

Better health, increased Decreased vulnerability, Essential for long-term biogical diversity varied diet, etc. cropping in the Highlands

A holistic approach to pest control

The most serious pests for most of the farmers in MASIPAG are rats and birds. They often chase these off with scarecrows or various noise-making devices in the field (see also box 10). Another major problem is the Latin American freshwater snail Pomacea canaliculata, which was introduced in the 1980s for cultivation as a food source for the poor rural population and also as a potential export. The venture failed, but the snail spread rapidly throughout the entire region and is today one of the worst pests for the countrys rice growers. Chemical pesticides unfortunately kill desirable species such as fish and are also often toxic to humans. Many of the farmers in MASIPAG have begun to control the snails mechanically by collecting them by hand and using them as chicken feed. The farmers say that they have fewer problems with pests now since they have learned about the benefits of or-

ganic farming, where different beneficial species are promoted. Beneficial species found in organic rice fields include ducks, frogs and crabs (which are also used as food), spiders and a nitrogen-fixing algae. These beneficial organisms are practically non-existent in conventional cropping, where various chemical pesticides are used. In addition to promoting beneficial species as an alternative way of contributing to natural pest control, the organic farmers in MASIPAG take care to design their entire cropping system so that it does not promote the spread of pests in the way that monocultures tend to do. A varied crop rotation, a diversity of different crops and locally bred varieties decrease the general susceptibility to pests. Focusing on recycling and diversity instead of fossil fuel-based-technology creates more complex and varied habitats where a diversity of birds, insects and other plants and animals thrive. By being more multifunctional, such agriculture also contributes benefits in addition to food and can therefore provide a more secure livelihood while also promoting ecosystem services, including biologi-

Box 8: Biological diversity increasingly important in a changing climate

Biological diversity is the richness of variation within species, between species and in ecosystems in the landscape. This diversity provides us with everything from food and clothing to medicines and housing. In addition, there is a direct link between biological diversity and the long-term capacity of ecosystems to deliver ecosystem services such as air and water purification, pollination of crops and prevention of erosion. Diversity is also the foundation for plant and animal breeding and an insurance for the future. We know that the climate and the environment will probably change at an increasing rate and that it is therefore important to preserve a diversity of plants and animals with different environmental requirements so that there are always species remaining that can perform vital functions in the ecosystem even under the new conditions, in which many species risk extermination. Between 20 and 30 per cent of all plant and animal species are threatened with extinction if the mean global temperature increases by 1.5 to 2.5 degrees, according to the UN panel on climate change, IPCC. This means that ecosystems will become more susceptible and that their long-term ability to cope with changes in the climate and the environment (their resilience) risks being decreased.


Box 9: Resilience the ability of a system to cope with change

Resilience is the long-term ability of a system to cope with change and to continue to develop. For an ecosystem such as a forest, this may involve coping with e.g. storms, fires and pollution, while for a society it means the ability to deal with political unrest and natural disasters in a sustainable way. For a rice grower and his/her field, resilience means the ability to cope with everything from climate change and pest attacks to changes in agricultural policy. Therefore, resilience encompasses the ability of the system to resist stress or change and to re-establish vital functions afterwards. In the long run, this requires an ability to adapt and self-renew. Increased knowledge of how we can strengthen resilience in society and nature will be increasingly important in coping with the stresses brought about by climate change and other environmental impacts.

All photos: Achim Pohl.

Box 10: Examples of pest control in rice without the use of chemicals
Varied crop rotation and diversity of different crops and varieties decreases general susceptibility to pests. Free-range ducks eat the apple snail Pomacea canaliculata, a pest of rice. Birds and ants, which thrive in the organic fields, eat the eggs of apple snails. Dragonflies that live wild in the organic crops eat aphids. Dead frogs placed on canes in rice fields attract beneficial insects. Special herbs mixed with coconut juice deter rats (the mixture is spread round the fields and cause itching on contact) Lemongrass is grown around the fields to keep rats out.


Dolores Ayen, one of MASIPAGs rice breeding farmers, demonstrates how to cross various rice plants. Through collaborating with researchers and activities on the experimental farms, the farmers learn from each other and become farmer-researchers. The new rice varieties are evaluated within the local cooperative and then by other members of MASIPAG. Photo: Achim Pohl.

4. Researchers and farmers learn from each other

ASIPAG is a partnership for development between farmers and researchers. It is a clear example of how researchers and practitioners can work together to find new methods of sustainable development that integrate ecological, social and economic aspects. Overall, this unique partnership has resulted in crops that are less dependent on chemical pesticides and more tolerant to climate change.
For MASIPAG, the partnership between researchers and farmers centres greatly on rice breeding and the development of locally adapted crops. Since its establishment in 1987, its members have collected around 1090 local varieties of rice in a national gene bank. MASIPAG is currently organising no less than 35 000 farmers more than the total number of full-time farmers in Sweden. The role of the researchers in the partnership is to provide training and advice to strengthen the farmers own capacity to develop sustainable cultivation methods and local markets. However, all critical decisions are made by the farmers themselves, based on criteria that they have established. The partnership with researchers was initiated after farmers experienced growing problems with depleted soils and loss of biological diversity in and around their crops the downside of the green revolution. Many farmers had also become burdened with debt due to their increasing dependence on a few commercial, high yielding varieties, which required expensive inputs such as artificial fertilisers and health-impairing chemical pesticides in order to produce high yields. Through their partnership with researchers and their activities on the experimental farms, the farmers themselves have become a form of researcher. They work together with MASIPAGs experts to cross varieties they themselves have selected. These are then tested and evaluated, first within the cooperative of origin and then by other members of MASIPAG. The actual plant breeding work is extremely timeconsuming and requires a great deal of patience and it must


Rice breeding is an extremely time-consuming and laborious task that must be carried out at exactly the right time. First the male organs are removed from each flower and then pollen from the crossing in variety is applied by hand. Without the help of researchers such as Chito Medina (see picture on right and portrait below) and the support of MASIPAG, farmers could not be able to experiment with different rice varieties. Photos: Achim Pohl.

be done at exactly the right time. First the male organs are removed from each flower and then the farmer manually applies pollen from the variety he wants to cross in. Before work has come to this stage, there have generally been several years of growing local varieties to identify those suitable for crossing in. Without the support of MASIPAG, the farmers could not afford to experiment with different varieties, with the associated risk of having a reduction in yields.

Portrait 4: Chito Medina researcher and national coordinator of MASIPAG

Chito is national coordinator of MASIPAG and divides his time between his work there and a post at the university. He has a doctorate from Canada and is co-

author of the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD). He believes that in order to lift themselves out of poverty and the hunger trap, it is essential for farmers to actively participate and not be reduced to the role of passive recipients. His parents were small and subsistence farmers, but he was able to study agriculture and biology in a university. He knew early on that he wanted to help farmers find a way out of poverty and therefore he began to get involved in MASIPAGM since the organization was formed. He views his role as a link that can facilitate things being done and information being spread within the MASIPAG network. With his background, he is living proof of the unique partnership for development between farmers and researchers embodied in the actual name of MASIPAG in Filipino.

Box 11: Advantages of locally bred rice varieties according to farmers themselves
Taste better than the varieties sold by major companies Less dependent on expensive inputs (commercial seed, artificial fertiliser and pesticides). Better adapted to the local soils and to changes in the climate. Higher resistance to disease. More profitable. The different rice varieties have a cultural significance.


Within MASIPAG, participation, ecosystem services and biological diversity are important measures to improve the adaptive capacity of farmers and decrease the vulnerability of farming to climate and environmental change. In addition, the work of the organisation has improved the social standing, diet and health of the local people. Photo: Achim Pohl.

5. Conclusions
The activities of the organisation MASIPAG in the Philippines are a shining example that there are alternatives to chemical-intensive farming. The organisations work demonstrates that it is possible to increase yields and decrease vulnerability to climate change through farmer-led plant breeding, modern organic production and pest control without chemicals. Through the work of MASIPAG, thousands of farming families have created sustainable farms with increased biological diversity, improved profitability and decreased vulnerability. Studies have shown that the net income from the MASIPAG organic farms using locally bred varieties are considerably higher than those in conventional cropping. The diversity of indigenous rice varieties is an important basis for the sustainable farming that MASIPAG is developing and spreading in order to make small farmers less dependent on loans and chemicals. Many of the farmers who are members of MASIPAG have had markedly fewer problems with pests since they converted to cropping based on ecosystem services and diversity. This is due to factors such as the promotion of beneficial organisms and to the many different local varieties providing increased resistance to pests and diseases. The activities of MASIPAG are a clear example of how researchers and practitioners can work together to find new paths towards sustainable rural development. There is a need for a comprehensive change of course within agriculture so that the targets on controlling poverty and decreasing hunger are achieved in a sustainable way. Farming of the future must be based more on local resources, biological diversity and ecosystem services than on fossil fuel. The current system of commercial plant breeding including the development of genetically modified crops and existing patent regulations risk leading to decreased diversity in food crops in the world. This can mean fewer alternative crops and decreased variety diversity, limiting the capacity to adapt to global warming and other environmental changes. Farmer-led research and participation are important measures in improving the adaptive capacity of farmers and increasing the resilience of farming.


A number of relevant international research reports claim that there is a need for a comprehensive change of course within agriculture. In their opinion, research, aid and national strategies to combat poverty should focus on sustainable organic intensification that does not simply benefit agribusiness, but also all the worlds small farmers. Photo: Achim Pohl.

6. Recommendations
Support within the agricultural sector should be directed more to spreading the risks and improving adaptive capacity. This can be achieved by promoting diversity-based agriculture that benefits from e.g. local rice varieties with traits such as tolerance to flooding, salinisation and heat, and by encouraging a diversity of crops and cropping systems. The common rights of ownership to genetic resources must be protected, e.g. by defending the freedom of the worlds small farmers to breed, save and exchange seed. International aid and research must prioritise the agricultural sector as an important development issue and investment in sustainable rural development should be increased in order to reduce poverty. National strategies for agricultural development and poverty alleviation must focus on providing more support and financial incentives for small farmers wishing to convert to ecosystem services-based farming that uses less fossil fuel and fewer chemical inputs in the form of artificial fertilisers and pesticides. Different systems for compensating farmers for the production of ecosystem services should be more closely investigated and developed so that they better help small farmers in the South. Support for partnerships between researchers and farmers should be increased so that the distance between research and development is shorter and the research can more often be carried out in the situation where it will be applied. This can occur for example through local networks, development projects and demonstration activities on farms, and through participatory research on sustainable production and local plant breeding. There is a need for a comprehensive change of course within agriculture throughout the world. Research, aid and national strategies to combat poverty should focus on sustainable organic intensification that does not simply benefit agribusiness, but also all the worlds small farmers.


Box 12: Seven reasons why MASIPAG has been so successful

1. 2. 3. 4. MASIPAG focuses on collaboration to strengthen poor small farmers. Its model for sustainable rural development provides the potential for better food security for the family and better health. There are fewer problems with pests on farms with a diversity of crops, because there are more natural enemies and risks are spread more widely. The unique partnership with researchers and the support of MASIPAG means that farmers have the economic resources and knowledge required to experiment with different rice varieties without risking loss of income if yields decline. MASIPAG protects and actively maintains the ecosystem services on which agriculture depends. Farmers are no longer dependent on loans to buy expensive inputs. Empowerment of farmers increases self-reliance locally and individually.

5. 6. 7.

7. Sources and recommended reading

Bachmann, L., Cruzada, E. and Wright, S. 2009. Food Security and Farmer Empowerment a study of the impacts of farmer-led sustainable agriculture in the Philippines. Misereor/MASIPAG. Badgley, C., et al. 2007. Organic agriculture and the global food supply. Renewable Agriculture & Food Syst 22: 86-108 FAO. 2009. How to feed the world in 2050? Issues paper from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization: Henrysson, J. and Hk, K. 2007. Food, Climate and Development. Report by Swedish Society for Nature Conservation: development.pdf IAASTD 2008. Synthesis Report of the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD): Lundberg, J and Moberg, F. 2008. Ecological in Ethiopia Farming with nature increases profitability and reduces vulnerability. Swedish Society for Nature Conservation. 28 p. Foreningsdokument/Rapporter/engelska/Report_international_Ethiopia.pdf Lundberg, J and Moberg, F. 2009. Organic Farming in Brazil Participatory certification and local markets for sustainable agricultural development. Swedish Society for Nature Conservation. 24 p. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. 2005: Stokstad, E. and Vogel G. 2003. Mixed message could prove costly for GM crops. Science 302: 542-543 Trumper, K. et al. 2009. The Natural Fix? The role of ecosystems in climate mitigation. A UNEP rapid response assessment. United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP-WCMC, Cambridge, UK. UNEP-UNCTAD 2008. Organic agriculture and food security in Africa. UNEP-UNCTAD Capacity-building



his report deals with the unique work being done by the network organisation MASIPAG to develop more sustainable agriculture in the Philippines. The focus here is on ecosystem services and concentrated efforts to preserve and increase biological diversity with the help of measures such as farmer-led local plant breeding. Increased profitability, more secure livelihoods and decreased vulnerability to climate change are some of the results. he Swedish Society for Nature Conservation and MASIPAG have been working together since 1999, for example on the development of sustainable cultivation methods, documenting traditional cropping systems and strengthening the rights of farmers to their own seed. he Swedish Society for Nature Conservation is also involved with many other farming organisations in the South and with organisations working on issues concerning forests, coasts and seas, climate, environmental toxins and secure access to food. In total, the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation is working with around 60 organisations in over 20 different countries. The work is mainly funded by Sida.


Naturskyddsfreningen. Box 4625, 116 91 Stockholm, Sweden Phone + 46 8 702 65 00. The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation is an environmental organisation with power to bring about change. We spread knowledge, map environmental threats, create solutions, and influence politicians and public authorities, at both national and international levels. Moreover, we are behind one of the worlds most challenging ecolabellings,Bra Miljval(Good Environmental Choice). Climate, the oceans, forests, environmental toxins, and agriculture are our main areas of involvement.