Thursday, February 18, 2016

Heirloom Rice Project links farmers with local and export markets

TAGAYTAY CITY, Philippines—Soon to begin its second phase, the Heirloom Rice Project (HRP) will further help traditional farmers of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) and North Cotabato work more closely with the local and export markets.

With strategies to improve farmers’ livelihoods and increase their incomes through heirloom rice production and marketing, the HRP team—led by Dr. Casiana Vera Cruz, senior scientist at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), and Dr. Digna Manzanilla, IRRI social scientist and coordinator of IRRI’s Consortium for Unfavorable Environments—looks forward to enhancing the value chain where farmers and producers can derive social and economic benefits.

Dr. Gelia Castillo (photo), national scientist and IRRI consultant, and Mr. Edmund Sana, consultant to the Philippine Department of Agriculture (DA)’s Food Self-Sufficiency Program, provided guidance. The unique and complex nature of the project make it an interesting endeavor to undertake, according to Castillo. She challenged the HRP team to remain focused on the vision of seeing that rice farmers improve their lives through heirloom rice.

The HRP is a collaborative undertaking of the DA and IRRI to help smallholder rice farmers in Benguet, Ifugao, Mountain Province, and Kalinga and upland farmers growing traditional varieties in the Arakan Valley in North Cotabato. During phase 1, it has been aiming to characterize and understand the diversity of heirloom rice varieties as well as to help link the farmers who grow these rice varieties with both domestic and export markets.

In the annual review on 4-5 February, the project team, partners, and other stakeholders discussed accomplishments in 2015 and plans for phase two.

Achievements in 2015 highlighted during the discussion included characterizing varieties, mapping sites using geographic information system software, and strengthening the link between farmers and markets. Moreover, the project was able to determine the unique traits as well as the grain and nutritional qualities of heirloom rice varieties. Most of all, the HRP team developed a brand concept for marketing heirloom rice.

The review also provided opportunities for the collaborators to harmonize efforts to find solutions to problems confronting smallholder heirloom rice farmers. Representatives from the four CAR provinces and North Cotabato shared their plans of action for 2016.

Eighty participants from DA, DA-CAR, state universities and colleges, IRRI, the Philippine Rice Research Institute, the Industrial Technology Development Institute of the Department of Science and Technology, the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines of the Department of Trade and Industry, and the National Commission for Indigenous Peoples attended the annual review.

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