by Janssen Martinez

Editor’s Note: Janssen Martinez is the lead climate finance analyst of ICSC. He was in Ifugao with colleagues  from March 2-4, 2021 to conduct focus group discussions with local stakeholders. The activity is part of the Multi-Actor Partnership (MAP) initiative, aimed at enabling more effective climate and disaster risk financing and insurance responses. Apart from the Philippines, MAP covers Laos, Sri Lanka, Malawi, Madagascar, Senegal, and the Caribbean. This is the first of a series of blogs on the MAP fieldwork.

I wrote this piece in a place so stunning it felt unreal. It is not enough to see Banaue, Ifugao. It is a monumental experience just to be here, home to one a  fitting example of one of the world’s earliest civil engineering innovations in agriculture. Soaking in the visual memory of the place and what it’s people and ecosystems are facing with the rapidly changing climate is humbling.

Photo (c) Janssen Martinez/ICSC

We were in Ifugao to help facilitate a focus group discussion among people’s organizations in Lagawe. Our purpose: to develop, deepen understanding of, and deploy climate and disaster risk financing and insurance (CDRFI), a programmatic approach to help protect groups and properties financially from climate and disaster impacts.

Why Ifugao?

The province is one of our data gathering sites in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR). This area is exposed to different climatic and environmental hazards given its mountainous terrain and geologic characteristics. CAR also happens to supply a significant quantity of vegetables and fruits that are consumed throughout the Philippines.

The people of Ifugao are already experiencing certain climate change impacts. Scientific projections in Ifugao suggest hotter dry seasons and wet season rainfall reduction in the period 2036 to 2065. This means less productivity. According to a study by Stucker et al, an increase by a single degree in temperaturecan reduce rice yields by up to 10 percent.. Such risks are recognized by the Department of Agriculture (DA) and Department of Science and Technology (DOST), which are leading climate adaptation initiatives in response to projected climate impacts in the region.


Banaue Rice Terraces – Ifugao’s most famous tourist spot which showcases the innovation of the Ifugao People for irrigation and planting efficiency in their rice paddies. Photo (c) Janssen Martinez/ICSC

Adapting agriculture strategies in anticipation of global temperature changes need to see beyond changing land use patterns, production techniques, and germplasm-type approaches. Using living organisms as breeding material, as heirloom or wild relatives of crop types stored in gene banks are important but insufficient, as they are often only targeted towards increasing crop yields. It does not necessarily help manage other impacts, such as extreme weather episodes, flooding, and landslides. Such risks are often met by a common response from government and development agencies: financial aid packages distributed after disasters occur. Such interventions are not sustainable, as they only cover losses from extreme weather events, and only after havoc has been wrought, often times with ridiculous discounts due to haggling practices intrinsic to indemnification insurance.

The MAP project responds precisely to this gap by shifting away from a fixation on extreme weather towards integrating slow onset events brought about by climate change, such as gradual yet long-term changes in temperature and precipitation, which are rarely considered “disasters” because they take place without the drama of calamities or immediate displays of visual trauma. Many risk-transfer mechanisms are actually already available to address slow-onset climate impacts, such as weather index-based insurance (WIBI), which triggers the release of insurance payouts whenever specified thresholds has been breached regardless of disaster or non-disaster classification.

Spurred on by a feelings of wonder and respect, and humbled by the grandeur of our setting, we met with provincial government officials and community stakeholders to listen and help raise their voices and document their expectations. Their experience is central to understanding, developing responsive insurance services and related financial products in the face of anticipated losses from extreme weather events and other climate-driven impacts. We expect to harvest more insights and stories as we develop effective solutions together with local communities, thanks to the open platform for dialogue that MAP provides.

Expect more stories from the ground soon.