Despite contributing about 40% to total food production in the country, rainfed agriculture has been a neglected sector, receiving little investment and policy support. Rainfed areas will be the hardest hit by increasing water scarcity, frequent droughts, rising temperatures, new pests and diseases, shorter growing seasons and degraded natural resources brought about by climate change.
Participative integrated watershed management, drought-resistant and climate change-ready crops such as sorghum, chickpea, pigeonpea and groundnut can play a strong role in helping rainfed farmers adapt to these threats.
With support from the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD), ICRISAT is promoting pigeonpea as its hardiness is well adapted to the Philippine drylands, which has brought multiple benefits to farmers. On-farm trials showed remarkable yields of over 3 t/ha and the protein-rich grains can be used in many recipes. Improved chickpea varieties can show good yields of up to 2.5 t/ha and help adapt to longer periods of drought (7-8 months). ICRISAT's groundnut variety "Asha" yielded 3,991 kg/ha, double that of traditional varieties.
For several years now, sweet sorghum is being cultivated in Ilocos and Luzon regions, generating new value added products for farmers like sweeteners, gluten-free flour and animal feed.
In the country's sloping lands, unsustainable farming practices lead to serious land degradation and soil erosion. In these regions as well as in the elevated dryland lowlands, growing water scarcity is also an issue. A decline in the productivity and profitability of farming has been observed year after year. ICRISAT's research experience in community-based participatory watershed management can help in water and soil conservation with low-cost interventions. This approach has been tested in 5 pilot sites, selected among the "land degradation hotspots". The transfer of the Bhoochetana technology includes ways to train farmers and extension services in better soil nutrient management to improve harvests.
In the coming years, ICRISAT will continue building the capacity of agricultural research in the Philippines, having recently launched an open academy for Philippines dryland agriculture.
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