The Climate challenge and the digital opportunity

Published October 1, 2019, 12:35 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat



John Tria

As we enter the last quarter of 2019, thoughts come to two things beyond politics and the economy that will define the way we will view 2020 — the digital economy and the climate challenge.

An alarming climate report and its effects on our food supply

We received a more bleak, yet more realistic climate report last week, noting how much of the polar ice caps have melted, and how the feared change due to these climate shifts are here.

In Mindanao, we may not have the same number of super-typhoons, but we have begun feeling the deep impacts on our agriculture. The weak corn harvests in 2015 caused an uptick in chicken prices, and the weak durian harvests of 2017, according to some, 2018 were precipitated by a long dry spell. The recent overproduction of mangoes tell us how climate is affecting production.

This will have a profound effect on our food supply and farm incomes, especially in ASEAN’S two largest countries that constitute half its population: Indonesia and the Philippines. Both have the archipelagic lay out and mountainous terrain make efficient consolidation of commodities costly, creating a struggle for both to meet the politically important rice self-sufficiency objective over the last 20 years.

Unlike Vietnam, which has the vast, connected plains fed by the Mekong Delta that enable the three cropping cycles of rice, and quicker, cheaper logistics to consolidate production.

There is thus a need for smarter agriculture practices, upgraded agricultural processing, and expanded export markets to take in excess production of various commodities that may be scarce, or come in abundance from time to time as climates rapidly shift.

In the end, how these two largest ASEAN countries will boost their food supply capability and trade, add value, and utilize them will spell success of ASEAN in cutting poverty while facing the climate challenge.

The digital opportunity to deal with the climate challenge

While pondering the climate challenge we come to the digital opportunity when we realize that the stuff of science fiction is now reality. Artificial intelligence allows things other than people to be intuitive and think, move, and produce food smartly.

To continue to live affordable productive and healthy lives, where electricity, water and public transport improvements such as the new PUV systems in Davao and Cebu require smarter solutions provided by digital technologies that will allow us to escape the urban issues and food supply challenges of Metro Manila.

Dealing with these challenges and opportunities

The climate challenge can be met with innovation and higher interregional cooperation.

In last weekend’s Davao Agri Trade expo, new crops and approaches were discussed, and  inspiring stories of young agripreneurs took the stage, as  almost 10,000 visitors saw new technologies and product ideas made from agricultural commodities. This adds value and strengthens agribusiness as new challenges and opportunities arise.

Likewise, the launch of the Davao — Manado direct flight links Mindanao with ASEAN’s largest country, allowing future business deals and cross supply arrangements to take place.

Heightened interregional cooperation to deal with the effects of climate change, disaster preparedness and response, and the capacity to trade commodities facilitated by technology platforms can map production areas across Southeast Asia and enable producers to easily find suppliers, communicate with them, and get the products they need.

These approaches strengthen trade and allows us to meet the climate challenge.

More to come.

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