By: Annette Tobias*
7 October 2014
Besides cool weather, more than 300 heirloom rice varieties thrive in the Cordilleras, according to farmers who have been maintaining the diversity of rice to preserve treasured culture and tradition. Some of these varieties are now in demand in both local and international markets.
From September 22-30, 2014, the socioeconomics team of the heirloom rice project led by Dr. Digna Manzanilla and Dr. Matty Demont conducted a rapid value chain assessment in the Cordillera region. This assessment was done, particularly in the provinces of Benguet, Mt. Province, Ifugao, and Kalinga. It aimed to understand the production, to processing and then marketing of these varieties to be able to assist the farmers by linking them to better markets and to understand the existing market of heirloom rice. The assessment also identified the constraints and opportunities faced by the heirloom rice farmers.
Jimmy Lingayo of the Rice Terraces Farmer Cooperative explains how the cooperative facilitates the export of heirloom rice
Dr. Manzanilla gives a brief background of the heirloom rice project
Dr. Matty Demont explains how to conduct the value chain approach for heirloom rice
During the value chain assessment sessions, 11 self-help groups and more than 100 farmers discussed their issues on production, processing, and marketing of heirloom rice. Key issues, such as problems on availability of post-harvest processing machines on milling, sorting, cleaning, drying, and lack of knowledge on how a cooperative works were identified during the discussion sessions.
The team visited the farmers' fields, local market outlets and processing centers of heirloom rice, and interviewed key stakeholders.
Manual threshing with Dr. Matty Demont
Woman farmer inside her seed storage house
Facilitating the smooth conduct of the assessment at the field were officials from the DA-RFO-CAR: Ms. Virginia Tapat, Chief of Operations; Dr. Magdalena Manawan, Chief of Research; and SCUs partners: Dr. Jovita Sim, Mr. Joel Faroden, Mr. Elmer Pakipak, Ms. Loida Tibong, Ms. Joyce Bodah, Dr. Teresita Alig, Mr. Romy Wacas, and Dr. Ferdie Ganotice. The team was also joined by CURE staff, Annette Tobias, Seher Gumus (IRRI scholar) and Ward van der Zee (IRRI intern).
Mr. Ceferino Orlan, Municipal Agriculturist of Barlig, Mt. Province explains the problems on broken rice
Mr Joel Faroden with the team on their visit to the local processing center of heirloom rice in the town proper of Mt. Province
The data gathered from this activity will be used by the team in designing the interventions needed to further help improve the livelihoods of the heirloom rice farmers. Heirloom rice, as stated by the farmers, is not only their source of livelihood, but also their source of pride and legacy.
The team that conducted the rapid value chain assessment for the heirloom rice project
*Ms. Annette Tobias is an agricultural economist from CURE.