RCMAS Climate +: Digitalization to save time, money, and de-risk smallholders in the Philippines
As smallholders continue to face the ever-increasing consequences of climate shocks and impacts which put their lives and livelihoods at greater risk, the need to transform the climate adaptation capacity of land, water, and food systems only becomes ever more urgent. Providing farmers with actionable, simple, low-cost, climate-adjusted, and relevant crop management recommendations is one such pathway to enhancing resilience.
In the Philippines, the CGIAR Initiative on Climate Resilience (ClimBeR) is doing just this through – the Rice Crop Manager Advisory Service (RCMAS) Climate +. RCMAS is a free digital agriculture service of the Department of Agriculture (DA) that gives farmers the information that they need to increase yields and profits of rice farming through targeted integrated nutrient and crop management. Based on a request from the government of the Philippines to provide fast and efficient digital solutions to farmers, ClimBeR, developed an Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) in collaboration with the DA’s Regional Field Office in Bicol to effectively and efficiently link emerging innovative science-based digital solutions to existing systems such as government platforms, at the national and regional levels.
Specifically, ClimBeR links two DA’s operational, synergistic, and complementary digital platforms – the RCMAS and the Agro-climatic Advisory Portal (ACAP), to upgrade the current RCMAS and provide farmers with actionable, climate-adjusted, and relevant crop management recommendations. Through the API, the upgraded RCMAS Climate + provides a solution to help rice farmers better adapt to climate change and mitigate its impacts on their lives and livelihoods. It leverages currently available digital platforms to scale up climate information and reach farmers with a mechanism to enable better decision-making under dynamic climate conditions such as frequent and severe floods and droughts.
Diagram 1: The diagram below demonstrates the link between the two digital platforms via API.
Through the link between the Climate Information Service (CIS) and the farmer database, auto-generated climate risk information and its implications on the rice farming practices of farmers are directly sent to the RCMAS-registered farmers via text messages to their registered mobile numbers. Farmers are advised about the potential climate risks based on seasonal and 10-day weather forecasts and special weather forecasts such as during typhoons plus the possible mitigating measures to reduce crop losses.
RCMAS Climate+ is not just a collaboration between two digital platforms developed by different groups but is also a convergence of multiple DA-attached agencies such as the Climate Resilient Agriculture Office (CRAO), Regional Field Offices (RFO), Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) and external agencies, all who share the same objective of reaching farmers with better recommendations that will help them better prepare, and adapt to climate change.
The platform has multiple elements that respond to farmers’ information needs. Below are some examples of the SMSs sent out to farmers, translated into English from the local Filipino dialect – Tagalog, based on a 6-month seasonal forecast released in July, with the trigger for RCMAS Climate+ to send an SMS to farmers based on the parameter for meteorological drought, i.e., “below normal rainfall for 4 consecutive months.”
“Hello, Mr. Farmer. Based on a 6-month seasonal weather forecast for Camarines Sur province, there will be below-normal rainfall for 4 consecutive months (September – December) that could result in drought. You may use short-duration or a drought-tolerant variety. Ensure available water during the flowering stage. Monitor changes in weather conditions”.
If the field is rainfed, the SMS could differ as follows:
“Hello, Mr. Farmer. Based on a 6-month seasonal weather forecast for Camarines Sur province, there will be below normal rainfall for 4 consecutive months (September – December) that could result in drought. You may opt to plant other crops apart from rice. Monitor changes in weather conditions.”
Here is another example of the text message that can be provided to farmers based on a 10-day weather forecast coinciding with the vegetative stage,
“Hello, Mr. Farmer, based on the 10-day weather forecast for Pamplona municipality, there could be 5 (August 6 -10) or more consecutive days of moderate to heavy rainfall that could cause flooding and crop submergence. If crop submergence lasts for 7 or more days, you may apply 46-0-0 or 21-0-0 after the flood water recedes for the plant to quickly recover from stress”.
Collective effort is a pivotal part of providing transformative adaptation solutions that benefit smallholders. There are many opportunities to develop digital climate solutions that require varying levels of effort from different organizations, or even within different departments of the same organization. In most cases, they have much in common and are synergistic and complementary. However, these synergies and complementarities are often not fully exploited. Linking such interventions and digital solutions can provide more impactful, simple, and cheap solutions, and strengthen the connections between people, science, and technology,
The RCMAS Climate + platform is still under development. We believe that, together with government actors, the science and innovation community in the Philippines, businesses, and farmers, we can achieve much greater benefits for smallholders who continuously face the ever-increasing consequences of climate shocks and impacts. We, at ClimBeR, are looking forward to collaborating with all digital solution developers and innovators. Together, let’s make the agri-food sector more productive, inclusive, and climate-resilient!
Rowena Castillo – International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Jeny Raviz – IRRI, Mary Anne Reyes-Gutierrez – IRRI, Alice Laborte – IRRI, Jon Hellin – IRRI, Jane Girly Cuerdo-Balanza – Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, Murat Sartas – IITA and the Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT, Martina Mascarenhas – ClimBeR
Feature image: Farm and other filed activities around Mayon Volcano in the Bicol Region. Part of the image collection of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).
Workshop conducted with farmers in Bicol in August 2023. Photo credit: Rosendo Gutierrez (IRRI)