A Local Farmer Predicts Floods

AgricultureLand issues

Notes to broadcasters

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People who live in rural areas of the Philippines have learned to recognize signs in nature that warn them of oncoming floods. This indigenous knowledge has become respected and extensively documented by scientists in the country. The following drama is a fictional account of a farmer who comes to be respected for his skills in predicting floods in a region of the Philippines. This would be especially useful to your listeners as part of a series of programs about how local people use signals in nature to predict the weather.




Mr. Biggie :
Wise villager who can predict oncoming floods
Young village boy
Jojo’s father
Dr. de la Cruz :
Government scientist

: You learn a lot about the local weather, especially if you have lived in one place for a long time. You observe what’s happening around you, and in time you know when the rains are coming, and when a dry period is expected. This is important knowledge.

In the village of Somon, in the Philippines, one Mr. Biggie Bello, a local farmer, was an expert on the subject of flooding. When he warned that the floods were coming, the whole village listened. And he was usually right. He had lived through many floods in Somon village, and knew first-hand how devastating floods could be.

Mr. Biggie actually became quite famous in the village, and today we’re going to find out why. We meet Mr. Biggie now, sitting under a tree, mending a fishing net. But, look! Someone is running towards him! Let’s investigate.

SOUND EFFECTS:Running footsteps gradually getting louder and stop.

(anxiously) Mr. Biggie, Mr. Biggie! Something is happening in the fields, down the road from the village. I think you should come and see!

Jojo, please calm down. What do you mean something is happening? What exactly is happening?

There’s a man setting up some equipment in the fields just outside of the village. He is putting poles in the ground and setting up cameras and other equipment.

Hmmm. I wonder what is going on. You’re right! We should investigate. Run to get your father and let’s all go down to the fields together.

Yes sir!

Some time later, Biggie, Jojo and Jojo’s father Dino, are walking away from the village on their way to the outlying fields. When they reach the edge of the cultivated fields, they see a man, busy at work, setting up a camera and some other equipment. Mr. Biggie feels anxious but he approaches the man.

Greetings sir. My name is Biggie Bello. Excuse me. I don’t mean to be rude. But we are curious to know what your business here is.

Dr. de la Cruz:
Of course, I apologize. My name is Dr. de la Cruz. I should have passed through the village first. But I was in such a rush. I am here for a few days to conduct scientific experiments for the government about volcanic eruptions.

Well sir, I don’t mean to be rude, but you should not be in this place. We are expecting heavy rains and possibly floods very soon. And the land here is low, very low. These fields are the first to go under water when the floods come.

Dr. de la Cruz:
But I have listened to the national weather forecast on the radio, and there is no news about any flooding.

You’re right Dr. de la Cruz. The government weather service has not mentioned these floods. But we know they are coming. Haven’t you noticed the moths flying around in large flocks? And the heavy clouds hanging next to the mountains?

Yes, and have you seen that the shellfish are crawling out of the water and up onto the riverbanks?

Dr. de la Cruz:
Well, yes, now that you mention it, I HAVE noticed the moths. And the heavy clouds next to the mountains in the distance. But what does any of this have to do with flooding?

These are all signs that heavy rains and possibly floods are on the way. These signs are dependable. We have been observing them for many years. When the shellfish crawl from the water and the moths fly in large flocks and the earthworms come out of the soil – the floods will follow.

Dr. de la Cruz:
I appreciate your warning and your concern. But I see no reason not to trust the government weather service. I am really not too worried.


So that was the end of that. Biggie and his friends said good-bye and left the scientist to his work. But they wondered what would happen to him and his experiment. And as they walked back towards the village, it started to rain.

Three days later it was still raining and the floodwaters were rising in the fields outside the village. Nobody in the village had seen the scientist for a couple of days and Mr.
Biggie found himself wondering about what had happened to him and his experiments. He was quite sure he would not see the scientist again.

But he was wrong. Several weeks later a letter arrived in the post for Mr. Biggie. It was from the Government Department of Science and Technology. Here’s what it said:


Voice of Dr. de la Cruz:
Dear Mr. Biggie Bello,

First I want to apologize for not taking your advice. It didn’t take me long to learn that you were right about the floods. You probably guessed what happened. I lost some valuable equipment and was unable to complete my experiments so I was sorry that I hadn’t listened to you.

But that is not the reason I am writing. It is evident that you have special skills and knowledge about weather patterns and about how to predict floods in the region. My colleagues and I would like to learn more from you about how to predict floods and other weather events. Could we meet with you and some of the other villagers, at your convenience, to discuss these matters further? Please contact me as soon as possible at the above address.


Dr. Felip de la Cruz
National Department for Science and Technology

The scientists did come to the village to meet with the villagers. They exchanged observations and ideas. Mr. Biggie did a presentation in front of everybody about all the flood warning signals in nature that the villagers knew of. The scientists learned a great deal from the villagers. They wrote down notes at the meeting and later at their offices they put the information they had learned on their computers.

Today the ideas and knowledge of Mr. Biggie and the other villagers of Somon have become part of a national warning system that helps to alert the population of impending floods and other serious weather events in the region. So now, when the moths fly around in large flocks, and the shellfish crawl out of the water, and heavy clouds hang next to the mountains, everybody notices.


Contributed by: Jennifer Pittet, Toronto, Canada.

Reviewed by: Dr. Merilyn Rondolo, Senior Science Research Specialist, Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development, Philippines. For further information about indigenous ways of predicting floods in the Philippines, you can contact Dr. Rondolo at: merilyn@ultra.pcarrd.dost.gov.ph