Threats to the Cordillera Rice Terraces in a Period of Rapid Climate Change

Similarly, farmers in Kalinga used the bark of the dallac tree to successfully control the worms. However, stripping off the bark of the dallac often adversely affects these trees.

In other communities, dealing with the giant earthworm has become an everyday challenge, an added burden to the hard work of rice cropping. In a desperate search for a solution, a woman from Besao poured salt into the soil. While it can control the worms, applying kilos of salt into the soil would be too costly for poor farmers like her.

The betel nut-chewing Banaue folk tested the strength of the “apog” (lime powder) wrapped in gawed (bitter leaves), which are chewed with betel nut, against the earthworms.

But applying marigold pesticides may be more practical.

Laboratory tests done by Dr. Nancy Gonzales of the Ifugao State College of Agriculture and Forestry ISCAF) found out that marigold is the most effective pesticide among the available botanicals in the area.

As climate change impinges on the rice terrace ecosystem, new challenges have engaged farmers into a continuing experimentation. Traditional knowledge on organic pesticides may not be enough to annihilate the earthworm population.

According to Robert Pangod of the Ifugao Resource Development Center, “These earthworms are new enemies in the rice terraces. In dealing with this, farmers are going through a trial-and-error method to control the giant earthworm population.”

The traditional knowledge in relation to infestation management combined with basic scientific data from the studies made by MRDC and agricultural institutions can lead to a development in technology that would greatly benefit the farmers.

Environmental degradation and climate change

While the giant earthworm infestation in the rice terraces has been the highlight of the conference, speakers also discussed the broader environmental scenario of this occurrence.

Speaking from a macro perspective, Dr. Romeo Gomez of Benguet State University (BSU) said, “Climate change can alter all the components of the environment. Changes in environmental dynamics may solve or enhance the earthworm problem.”

While further investigation is needed to gather hard empirical evidence, it has been observed that the giant earthworms appeared in the rice terraces at a time of changing weather patterns.

The CDPC, in its report on the state of the Cordillera ecosystems, showed the alarming rate of deforestation in the region. With the estimated 300-hectare annual forest loss, there has been a drastic reduction in the region’s forest ecosystem service like water conservation and climate regulation. In recent years, the region’s decrease in water yield has affected the supply of water for irrigation. For farmers, this situation is exacerbated by the water run off due to the giant earthworm movement in the rice terraces.

ISCAF’s Gonzales, in her report on the organic control of giant earthworms in the Ifugao rice terraces pointed out related environmental concerns such as the degradation of watershed and the uncontrolled buildings around the rice terraces. Northern Dispatch/Posted

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