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Patrick Raymund A. Lesaca

Biodiversity conservation is a big concern for the Department of Agriculture. It should be everyone’s concern as the Philippine Constitution provides for its preservation, conservation and development since the country is one of the richest in native plant and animal resources.

For the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), it sees its role in biodiversity conservation to be in the generation of greater appreciation for and in harnessing natural plant and animal endowments for the Filipino’s health and wellness which are partnered with the goal of alleviating rural poverty. It believes that utilization is the best approach to their conservation. Of particular interest are those that have existing and potential economic and health values.

Philippine native animals, such as swine and poultry, have been used for food over the centuries by Philippine inhabitants. In modern times, they’ve had the misfortune of being discriminated upon because of their small body size, slow growth rate and unpredictable performance in comparison to today’s commercial breeds. But, slowly but surely, interest in these animals is growing as growers are finding that their limitations are far outweighed by their ability to adapt, survive and reproduce even under adverse conditions or with minimal care. Case in point: most of the animals that survived Typhoon Yolanda were found to be native ones.

While the meat of native animals is being rediscovered by consumers for their superiority in taste and nutritive value for which they command premium price, there still is the need for their re-introduction into the consciousness of the general population as the use of native animals for food remains a largely niche market, save for native pigs for lechon. Many of our young people are unaware that the dishes tinola and inasal taste infinitely better if native chicken is used in their preparation. “The production of native chickens among local households is being limited by the failure in cultural and technology transfer of native chicken production technology from parents to children” said one researcher.

Department Order No. 15 of the DA created the Program for the Conservation and Utilization of Domesticated Native Food Animals in 2010 for the development of animals that are indigenous to the country such as pigs, poultry, horses, goats, sheep and cattle. This paved the way for the implementation of the Philippine Native Animals Development (PNAD) program with the National Swine and Poultry Research and Development Center of the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) based in Tiaong, Quezon, serving as the PNAD Center and hub of activities.

Efforts on the conservation, propagation and utilization of native animals have been done prior to the program with the issuance of the Department Order simply marking the beginning of their implementation on a more formal and comprehensive basis. Before the PNAD Program, the BAR, having realized early on the value of this vital resource, was already busy coordinating with the DA’s Livestock and Poultry Program in supporting and funding R&D projects on native animals.

With the issuance of DA SO No. 132 in 2011, BAR became part of the PNAD Program with the bureau becoming its lead coordinator for R&D. BAR Director, Dr. Nicomedes P. Eleazar, sits in its Advisory Committee while another BAR staff is in its program management. To date, BAR, has funded 21 PNAD R&D projects. The results of several of the projects on native pigs and chicken provide the core of the discussions in the articles appearing in this issue of the BAR Research and Development Digest.

One article talks about the physical appearances of native pigs and chickens established by BAI under the PNAD to enable an observer to distinguish one from the other and, perhaps, make preferences.

A researcher started out with a project about an indigenous plant used as feed for native pigs under a coconutbased agricultural system, later on diverting to native swine production itself as an agricultural system as an area for study and promotion. Seeing native pig lechon in restaurants and lechon outlets may not raise a fuss but not many people know of the circuitous route that many of these take in order to reach their markets and this is described in one article.

On the kind of products that can be made from native pigs and chicken, a strong pitch is made by one paper for processed meat prepared with natural ingredients (natural all the way!) while another did not limit itself to the proper preparation of the meat of the native pig but its skin as well.

Other articles delve into the utilization and commercialization of technologies along with the agribusiness of native pigs and chickens and describe the actors from the farmers to communities to viajeros and the consumers.

Finally, the effort to enhance the PNAD website for it to achieve its full potential is described.

With these, BAR is helping the DA see to it that the country’s native animals are not only promoted, but conserved for the next generations of Filipinos. With success, our ‘apo’ and ‘apo sa tuhod’ would be able to know what tinola with manok Tagalog tastes like. ###

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