The agricultural sector has much to benefit from the National Greening Program (NGP) as the latter would substantially improve the water yield of watersheds, thereby ensuring the supply of water to irrigate farmlands.

At the same time, Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje said that additional areas will be made available to high value crops through agroforestry to enable farmers earn additional income.

“We are seeking to plant and develop some 1.5 million hectares of open and idle forestlands between 2011 and 2016 in order to address the problem of soil erosion, secure a sustainable supply of water and providing additional livelihood for farmers through agroforestry,” explained Paje.

According to Paje, the NGP forms part of a number of initiatives that the Aquino Administration is putting in place to guarantee food security and enable the Filipino farmer cope with the impacts of climate change. He also said that under the NGP, the government seeks to improve the vegetative cover of watersheds nationwide that could supply much of the freshwater requirement of the country.

Food security is one of the pressing issues facing the Philippines being widely regarded as highly susceptible to the effects of climate change. Soil erosion is equally problematic due to the country’s geographic conditions.

DENR data show that about 20 million hectares or two-thirds of the country’s total land area of 30 million hectares, are hilly and mountainous, making these areas susceptible to soil erosion whose direct impacts and side-effects include low crop productivity, reduction of the capacity of water conveyance structures, destruction of wildlife habitat, and destruction of standing crops.

The environment chief said that under the NGP, agroforestry is encouraged to address poverty and provide livelihood opportunities for farmers especially those in the uplands. The DENR, with the Departments of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform through the Convergence Initiative, will assist farmers in the planting of coffee, cacao, cashew, and other high value crops, Paje added.

There are 8 million hectares of open, denuded and degraded lands that are in need of immediate rehabilitation.

Stressing that extreme weather events and change in rainfall patterns have resulted in substantial damage in the country’s crop yield, particularly rice, Paje said there is a need now to put science in upland development where plantation crops must suit not only the area’s soil type but also the elevation and the changing rainfall patterns.

"With the changing rainfall patterns due to climate change, affecting the planting and harvesting seasons for famers, this gives us in government and all its partners in the private sector more compelling reason to ensure the success of the NGP,” Paje stressed.