By Alex Villafania
INDEPENDENCE from fossil fuels by using local flora for biofuel development is a key component in reducing ozone-depleting carbon emissions, according to the head of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).
In a press conference on climate change, ICRISAT Director General William Dar also pointed out that the Philippines has enough locally available plants that can be used for soil conservation and managing food requirements.
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Dar stressed that the impending global climate change has changed the economies of many countries, especially those in the arid and semi-arid tropics of which the Philippines is included. He said that there are warning signs pointing toward food supply problems, storms, flooding and droughts that could adversely affect a nation's way of life.
"Global climate change is already affecting everyone. We can't solve it but we can definitely reduce its effects on the people," Dar said.
For one, he said the Philippines should increase its biofuel development programs. In which case, sweet sorghum and jatropha are prime products for creating bio-ethanol and bio-diesel. He said ICRISAT is already working with the Department of Science and Technology and the Department of Agriculture to teach farmers how to increase production, as well as scientists in extracting the necessary materials for biofuel development from these plants.
Dar also said sweet sorghum is also useful as a flood deterrent as it absorbs excess water from the ground, preventing it from loosening. During the dry season, sweet sorghum lasts much longer than most crops as it retains water.
Dar noted that Filipino farmers should start changing their seasonal planting methods to accommodate other plants that can be sustained during the longer dry season. Plants such as peanuts retain moisture in the ground long enough for other plants to grow. Other moisture-retaining plants include pearl millet, pigeonpea and groundnut, all of which can also adapt to high temperatures.
Dar said ICRISAT is getting enough support from the government in terms of promotion of ICRISAT's mandate to help farming communities and biofuel development. Aside from the DOST and DA, ICRISAT is also working with the Bureau of Soils and Water Management, several state colleges and Universities, and the Department of Energy.
Climate change has become a main subject of concern in the Philippines, especially with the onset of powerful storms and long dry spells. Government initiatives to alleviate the effects of global climate change in a local scale include developing new forms of energy sources, soil conservation implementation, among others.