Gifts in action

Planting smarter

A mom and vegetable grower from the Philippines is adapting her garden to a changing climate. Photo: Tessa Bunney/Oxfam

For Josephine Alad-Ad, gardening is more than a passion—it’s also a way to support her family. Once a week, the mom of four travels to a regional farmers’ market to sell her onions, peppers, squash, tomatoes, and other produce. Her earnings supplement her husband’s income as a farmer and laborer.

“Every time there’s a market day, I put aside a small amount to make sure I always have enough to send my children to school. That’s the most important thing to me,” said Alad-Ad.

But on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines, where Alad-Ad lives, even the best gardeners face uncertain times. Changes in the climate are leading to rising temperatures, droughts, floods, and more severe storms.

“The weather has become erratic. Last year it rained too much all the time and now this year we are experiencing a drought,” said Alad-Ad. “I have had 12 batches of onions fail already. That’s equivalent to 44,000 pesos ($990) in lost income.”

To help families make it through crises like these, Oxfam helped the Rice Watch Network establish several Climate Resiliency Field Schools in central Mindanao. Here, farmers who have been identified as leaders in their communities learn more about climate change, as well as new farming practices, new technologies, and crop diversification. They then take this knowledge and apply it to their own land—and, potentially, share it with their neighbors. The project aims to reach about 12,000 farmers in three years.

“I have started planting other crops, like fruit trees and rubber plants, that don’t need as much water,” said Alad-Ad. “I am also trying to do things to prevent my crops from dying, like letting the grass grow over the tomato plants to help retain the water. … It feels good to be doing something to try and improve life here and adapt to the changes we are experiencing.”

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