Improving adaptive capacity of small-scale rice farmers: Comparative analysis of Lao PDR and the Philippines

Lao PDR and the Philippines are among the Asian countries whose exposure to climate risks seriously threatens livelihood, particularly of those in the agriculture sector. The paper provides a comparative analysis of the adaptive capacity and current adaptation strategies of small-scale rice farm households in these countries. The analysis focused on two top rice-producing provinces in each country that are vulnerable to climate risks. It covered three rice production environments or ecozones - irrigated lowland, rainfed lowland and rainfed upland in two cropping seasons, wet and dry. Sources of data include survey of rice farmers; key informant interviews with local government officials; focus group discussions with farmer and village leaders and extension workers; and local government reports. Calculation of adaptive capacity index adopted the procedure applied by the United Nations Development Program (cited in Swanson et al. 2007) on the Human Development Index. It incorporates various bio-physical and socio-economic factors affecting adaptive capacity.

The analysis shows specific interventions that could improve household adaptive capacity to a changing climate, particularly extreme events and draw comparative lessons for possible uptake of other countries. The losses and damages experienced by the households show that livelihood, particularly of the poor farmers, is largely natural resource-based which is highly vulnerable to climate risks. The impacts of extreme events such as drought and typhoon vary by location, ecozone and cropping season. Farmers, particularly in the rainfed areas, have limited access to adaptation technologies and alternative livelihood sources. In the Philippines, farmers expressed the need for improved farming technologies, funding, skills and knowledge on adaptation to changing climate and advance warning on climate events. In Lao PDR, farmers need support for flood resistant rice varieties and better infrastructure because of their farms’ vulnerability to flooding and landslide.