Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Philippine rice straw project conducts virtual events for Filipino farmers

The Sustainable Rice Straw Management for Bioenergy, Food, and Feed in the Philippines (RiceStrawPH) project held its first virtual events on sustainable rice straw management as part of its online initiatives to reach its stakeholders in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The webinar, Accelerating initiatives for sustainable rice straw management in the Philippines, and the farmers’ field day, conducted online on September 22 and 29, enabled stakeholders to observe sustainable rice straw management practices that aim to improve livelihoods and the resilience of agri-food systems. 

During the field day, representatives from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), and the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) showcased technologies that will help improve the rice straw value chain in order to bring more income generating opportunities for farmers and food producers.

In the Philippines, approximately 15 million tons of rice is produced every year. This, in turn, produces about 11 million tons of rice straw which is considered as a “waste” byproduct of rice production. About 40-50% of the rice straw is burned in the field to quickly dispose of it for the next cropping causing air pollution and loss of nutrients for healthy plant growth.

Experts at PhilRice showcased the mechanized straw collection featuring the locally adapted rice straw baler and rice straw–based mushroom production. PCC staff demonstrated the steps and benefits of using Urea Molasses Treated Rice Straw (UMTRS) to improve the nutritional feeds for ruminants leading to a 33% additional income for the farmers.

Mr. Richard Pasco, IT consultant from IRRI’sSustainable Impact Platform presented the use of the EasyHarvest App, a logistical tool for machinery scheduling and with its added feature on rice straw supplier and buyer matching while Engr. Carlito Balinbing,from IRRI’s Mechanization and Postharvest Cluster, discussed using rice straw for bioenergy, specifically rice straw for anaerobic digestion and use in a furnace for rice drying.

The RiceStrawPH events also featured invited resource speakers from the different sectors to share insights on harnessing sustainable rice straw initiatives in the country. 

“The Philippines must make the most out of agriculture in the sense that nothing of value should go to waste and that it’s time to learn such practices,” said Philippine Senator Francis Pangilinan. “If Vietnam was able to gain profit from it, we can also. Why burn rice straw when you can profit from it?” .

Jonathan Sabiniano, the planning officer from Department Agriculture’s Office of the Undersecretary Designate for Livestock lauded the project’s initiatives in developing more nutritious feeds for the ruminants. He mentioned that RiceStrawPH helped livestock raisers by reducing the cost of nutritious feeds thereby increasing their income.

“The technologies should be utilized and that a clear pathway must be in place to fully utilize the outcome of the project especially for its beneficiaries,” said Reynaldo Lantin, a member of the Coalition for Agricultural Modernization in the Philippines said. Dr. Lantin also reiterated the need for creating a rice straw bale garden using a mechanized system for producing straw bales. “This would benefit the rural and urban households in terms of fresh supply of safe and healthy produce while providing a rich market for rice straw thus, benefiting the rice farmers with extra income,” he said.

IRRI acting Research Director and Sustainable Impact Platform Lead Jean Balie encouraged the RiceStrawPH team to consider thinking about strong policy-related outcomes as the next step for the project. “There is a need to better understand the underlying reasons for non-adoption of the already well established alternative uses of rice straw,” Dr. Balie said.

“The technologies generated and studied should have a clear utilization pathway on how it can be promoted later on; who to engage with, in terms of partnerships, have the technology positioned and promoted in a holistic manner,“ said Raymond Patrick Cabrera from the Department of Agriculture (DA)-Bureau of Agricultural Research who lauded the team for mounting the event.

“The project has successfully demonstrated scaling of different mechanization technologies which will help revitalize the agriculture sector,” said Dr. Hellin,“It also addresses critical areas of rice straw management which resulted from the collaboration of IRRI, PhilRice, and PCC.”

Caesar Tado, a component leader of RiceStrawPH, expressed his gratitude to the participants who attended the webinar and farmers’ field day. “The DA, PhilRice, PCC, and IRRI will continue to develop technologies that will promote the sustainable management of rice straw and at the same time improve livelihoods of farming communities,” Dr. Tado said.

Watch the livestream videos here:

Join the Rice Straw Philippines Community Facebook Page here:

Read the Rice Straw Policy brief here:

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