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The drylands represent a large share of the arable land in the Philippines archipelago, a territory prone to recurrent climate hazards. Rainfed farmers who often experience poor yields and chronic food insecurity, can benefit from ICRISAT's research, especially by cultivating improved varieties of nutritious and climate-resilient crops such as pigeonpea, chickpea, groundnut and sorghum, as well as by using participatory watershed management.

80% - Percentage of poor people in the Philippines living in rural areas

32% - Share of stunted children under five in the Philippines

40% - Contribution of rainfed agriculture to total food production of the Philippines


General context

The Philippines archipelago accounts for over 7,000 mountainous islands.  Prone to earthquakes and typhoons, the territory is covered mostly by tropical rainforests and narrow coastal plains. Agriculture represents about 10% of the GDP but employs a third of the workforce. Dryland agriculture covers three-fourths of the 12 million hectares of the country's  total cultivated area.

About half of the total population of 94 million people, and 80% of the poor live in rural areas. The incidence of poverty is higher in the uplands and among indigenous people. Most of the rural poor depend solely on rainfed subsistence farming and fishing, facing food insecurity across the year.

Some vulnerable groups also face specific issues. Indigenous people have high illiteracy rates and adoption of modern technologies conflict with their own traditions. Women have more limited opportunities outside their family and market responsibilities.

Smallholder farmers often have little access to productive assets and restricted links to the marketplace. They have few non-farm income-generating activities, and lack access to microfinance services and affordable credit.

ICRISAT research in the Philippines

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.

Key documents on Philippines:

Initial chickpea trials showed variable yet promising yields from 400 to 1,000kg/ha.
Building the capacity of researchers in the Philippines in dryland crop cultivation (here chickpea).
Pigeonpea sold as green pods and grain in Batangas market.
Pigeonpea trials after rice cultivation – Pigeonpea is a resilient and nutritious legume crop adapted to the Philippine drylands.