Korean Embassy, GGGI, partners urge sectors to address issues in PH agriculture

Published October 20, 2021, 1:45 PM

by Jonathan Hicap

The Korean Embassy in the Philippines and its partners urged the Philippine government, donor countries, private sectors and international organizations to address the pressing issues in the agriculture sector in the country in the run-up to the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26).

The Korean Embassy and the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) Philippines office co-hosted the Climate Talk Webinar Series titled “Climate Resilient and Sustainable Agribusiness: MSMEs and Value Chain Innovation in the Philippines.”

Farming in the Philippines (Department of Agriculture)

Joining the webinar were a group of industry leaders from the public and private sectors and domestic and international organizations such the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the World Bank, US Embassy in the Philippines, the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), the Philippines Business for Social Progress (PBSP) and Nestlé.

“This webinar series is designed to build closer coordinating platform which will accelerate climate actions among development partners”, said Kyooho Lee, consul general of the Korean Embassy.

The webinar participants (Korean Embassy)

The discussion addressed the major issues in terms of employment, poverty reduction, particularly in the context of the pandemic, and climate adaptation and mitigation.

In the Philippines, 24.8 percent of the total national employment (equivalent to 9.75 million people) is anchored in the agriculture sector, which only contributes to 10 percent of GDP. The value of agricultural production only declined by 1.2 percent in 2020 due to the pandemic.

“There is a need to forge a partnership to support for innovation and upgrading of agri value chains towards resiliency, sustainability, and digital transformation,” said DTI Usec. Blesila Lantayona.

Majority of the poor in the Philippines are found in rural areas where agriculture is the dominant source of livelihood, and smallholder farmers are not compensated properly in the value chain.

Jaesang Hwang, KOICA country director for KOICA, shared the current value-chain focused project done in collaboration with GGGI in Oriental Mindoro, which “provides direct investment and technical support to the agri-MSMEs and farmers below the poverty line, as well as develops an online tool that will provide analytic and objective basis for planning in relation to climate vulnerability and risk for agriculture sector.”

Elvin Uy, executive director of PBSP, the country’s largest business-led NGO partnering with KOICA and GGGI to ensure sustained impact of the grassroot intervention, added the important role of “convenor, influencer and implementer who can immediately respond to the needs of marginalized groups in the agriculture sector.”

According to Climate Watch, the agriculture sector accounts for 26 percent of the country’s greenhouse gas (GHS) emission. The sector is included as one of the main sectors in the country’s nationally determined contribution (NDC) submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Ryan Bedford, acting agricultural counselor of the US Embassy, highlighted the efforts of the US government in the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM for Climate) initiative that is set to be launched at the COP26 and designed to “improve environmental, social, and economic sustainability of agriculture and food systems through innovative technologies.” He also introduced innovative approaches that may be applied in the Philippines such as artificial intelligence (AI)-based app diagnosing crop diseases for banana farmers.

Angel Bautista, corporate affairs executive for the Philippine branch Nestle, presented pledges to achieve the Net Zero by 2050 through three impact areas of responsible ingredient sourcing, transforming of operation, and shaping a waste-free future. She also presented the NESCAFE Plan, the flagship initiative on rural development which has trained over 8,000 farmers since 2012.

In terms of climate impact, the agriculture sector is the most vulnerable sector in the Philippines facing frequent typhoons, floods and drought. One research stated that the annual net welfare loss of the sector, due to the climate crisis is $64 million per year

Eli Weiss, senior agriculture economist from the World Bank-Philippines, shared the experience of the Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP), the Department of Agriculture (DA)’s flagship project with national-level financing of $850 million from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD).

The program is dedicated to science-based planning based on vulnerability analysis, infrastructure development, and enterprise development. He stated that the “DA-PRDP takes a holistic approach in promoting sustainable and equitable growth in productivity and income of farmers and fisherfolks” responding to climate impact.

Juhern Kim, GGGI country representative who moderated the entire session, added that “there is still an untapped opportunity in the sector, which is related to agri-tech innovation and green entrepreneurship acceleration ecosystem which can mobilize private sector investment to the sector.”

“Development partners and private sectors need to further collaborate to design bankable projects in the sector, which will create a bigger impact to address the economic, social, and environmental issues around the sector”, added Consul General Lee.

Country representative Kim concluded with the agreement from the participants that well-crafted government policies together with catalytic investment from donors and private sectors can accelerate the sustainable transition of the sector.