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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

BSWM to establish more Agromet Stations using Automatic Weather Station (AWS)

With the effects of climate change threatening the agriculture sector, the Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM) is proposing a program that seeks to upgrade and increase the number of its Agro-Meteorological (Agromet) Stations in highly vulnerable agricultural areas.

The project, BSWM Executive Director Dr. Silvino Tejada said, will provide farming communities a tool for climate change adaptation and the development of a local early warning system for weather disturbances. The project will cost P175 million and will have a duration of three years. It will involve the following: Regional Field Units (RFUs) of the Department of Agriculture (DA); National Agricultural and Fishery Council; concerned local government units (LGUs); Agricultural State Colleges and Universities (ASCUs); Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Service Administration (PAGASA); Advanced Science and Technology Institute; and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

“While PAGASA already has weather stations in many parts of the country, there is a need to establish Agromet Stations in highly vulnerable agricultural areas which are not saturated by the domestic weather agency,” Tejada said.

In his report to DA Secretary Proceso J. Alcala, the BSWM is proposing to upgrade 10 of its 16 Agromet Stations to Automatic Weather Stations (AWS) and to establish an additional 84 AWS nationwide using the latest weather tracking technology. The program is now approved and was funded under US PL-480 grant. This will result in the country having more 100 AWS in highly vulnerable agricultural areas, like those located in the uplands.

The new AWS will be located in the offices of the 16 RFUs of the Department of Agriculture, the campuses of selected ASCUs, and LGUs that have highly vulnerable agricultural areas, among others.

Each of the new AWS and upgraded agromets will have one climatic data observer/encoder and one alternate who both will be trained in the operation of the weather instruments and the upkeep of the stations.
The weather data generated will be sent to the central server in the BSWM on real time basis through GSM, and can be accessed by the stations, DA-RFU’S and PAGASA through coded password.

The objectives of the program are:
1.) Develop a national base of agro-meteorological data that will cater to the needs on the design, development and management of water resources projects for the agricultural sector as a tool for mitigation and adaptation for climate change;
2.) Develop an enabling environment in the rural areas by engaging the services of DA-RFUs, ASCUs and LGUs to operate and maintain the 100 AWS/Agromets by 2012;
3.) Develop a strategy on the awareness and preparedness on disaster risk reduction management at the local community influenced by the station through trainings; and
4.) Develop the agro-ecological cell/zone in the influenced area of the weather stations by updating the soil map in the areas as database for crop planting and management in preparation for the adaptation to climate change.

“This project is expected to help make communities in highly vulnerable agriculture area to adapt to climate change based on hard data. Naturally, the BSWM, DA-RFUs, ASCUs and LGUs will take the lead in helping these vulnerable farming communities take the necessary steps in adapting to climate change based on the data gathered or processed from the weather stations,” Tejada said.

In the second or third year of the program, two Climate Field Schools will be established for each weather station, where members of irrigators associations and cooperatives will be trained on weather and climatic elements in relation to plant growth and disaster risk reduction management.

“What this program also intends to do is make the small farmers more aware of the effects of climate change on agriculture, and for him or her to be proactive in dealing with the effects of climate change,” Tejada added. Veron Hernandez, PSciJourn Mega Manila

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