The Philippines is a wonderful place for farming. Abundant rains and warm weather make it possible for us to grow nearly any food all year round. However there are some challenges that come with that heavy rain, one of the biggest ones being flooding. Areas in lower elevations are prone to flooding during the rainiest times of year. The default crop for these conditions has always been rice. While it is definitely a good and viable crop, conventional methods and an unethical value chain have made the typical rice farmer quite poor in general. There are some good methods of sustainable rice farming such as SRI, (System of Rice Intensification) which help farmers to increase their income while improving their lands, but another alternative is to diversify their farms. Diversification leads to healthier soils, better resiliency from market price shifts and provides the farmer with income all year round, rather than 2-3 times a year.
In this article, we will discuss some of the flood-resistant crops a farmer can choose to grow. Instead of citing studies, the information will come directly from our experience growing food for 15 years in a floodplain area. The farm is located in Zarraga, Iloilo which floods every 1-3 years and sometimes even once a year, with waters reaching 6 feet in depth and taking up to a week to recede. Because of those conditions, we can definitely say that the crops grown there are resilient to flooding.
Important Disclaimer: The crops grown on the experimental farm are strictly organic and naturally grown. This gives them greater vitality and resilience. The same results are not likely to be seen in conventionally grown crops. Even conventionally grown rice dies in a flood, due to poor root systems and plant health.
Banana Trees- Banana trees can provide a farmer with a harvest in as early as 6 months. They are perennials and self-propagate, meaning there is no need to spend on soil preparation every year, only fertilization. They are consistently in high demand as well, so there is no difficulty finding a market for them.
Adlai- Adlai is a great alternative to rice for farmers. It is highly flood resistant, and 3 week old seedlings can survive even 48 hours submerged. However Adlai can also survive drought (although it results in lower yields), which is important as weather patterns become more unpredictable. Adlai can be milled in a rice mill and sold for much higher prices than rice, although finding a market is not as easy.
Turmeric- Another perennial, this root crop is able to tolerate flooding of a few days, which is unusual for root crops. Turmeric is highly valued and can be sold either raw or processed into powder, both of which have ready markets.
Pineapples– Another low maintenance crop, this popular fruit provides only one harvest a year but is easily sold and has much higher potential for profit than rice.
Fruit, Beverage & Nut Trees- Mango, Avocado, Kamagong, Sampaloc, Chico, Guyabano, Langka, Mulberry, Pili Nut, Coconut, Cacao, Duhat, Calamansi, and Rambutan are all fruit trees that are highly resilient to flooding. Although they are more of a long-term investment, a farmer who is willing to commit some of his land to planting these trees will reap greater benefits after 10 years, and have something to leave for later generations.
Ducks & Geese
If you like to keep livestock, these two birds are able to survive the occasional flood. During dry season make sure to provide them with a pond to swim in. They are a valuable source of nitrogen-rich manure, meat and you can also sell them for a decent profit.
Upland Rice– This type of rice does not require flooded paddies for their growth, but they will also survive flooding. This can be a better alternative for farmers who depend on rain to feed their fields. In case of drought, this type of rice is more likely to survive.
Passion Fruit- Is a highly nutritious and high-value crop. The vine is a perennial and will last for years.
Vegetables- Okra, Talong, Kamote Tops (roots will rot in flood), Malunggay, Kangkong, Alugbati, Kulitis, Talinum are some vegetables that will survive and even thrive on a floodplain.
Flooding Brings Fertility
When a system is well-planned, flooding is not seen as a disaster, in fact it can be a blessing! Flood plains have been valued since the beginning of time as agriculutral land because the floods bring with them silts, plant matter and nutrient rich water that fertilize and restore the fields naturally. Many of the flood resistant crops we grow have shown increased growth in years that they were submerged in flood waters.
This list is not exhaustive and is based on experiments on a particular farm. If you have clay-heavy , flood-prone lands, these plants are likely to do well for you. However in other settings you may want to experiment for yourself as well.