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Rice terraces farmers fight climate change

rice terracesThe beholding terrain and vast coverage of the rice terraces found in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) is still one of the most proud-to-be-Pinoy spots in the Philippines.

However, due to the pervasive effects of climate change, rice terraces farmers are more determined to protect the 2000-year old natural heritage and to sustain rice productivity which is one of the major sources of livelihood in the region.

Impacts of climate change on production, environment, and health

The Ifugao State University (IfSU), in collaboration with the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), implemented a study titled “Assessment of Climate Change Impacts, Vulnerabilities, and Adaptation Strategies in the Traditional Rice Terraces of the Cordillera Region” to document the overall impacts of the weather anomalies being experienced in the region and how farming communities in Ifugao, Mt. Province, Kalinga, and Apayao adapt to sustain production and income.

The study, which was conducted from August 2011 to November 2012, also aimed to document policies on good practices in rice production to aid in optimizing productivity and preserving cultural heritage. Towards the end, the proponents created information materials and convened the rice farmers to discuss the findings and results of the study.

“The selected rice terraces clusters are Viewpoint and Bangaan in Banaue, Ifugao, Fidelisan, Pide and Aguid in Sagada, Mt. Province, Magsilay in Pasil, Kalinga, and Tanglagan in Calanasan, Apayao. The four study sites falls either under the Type 1 and 3 climatic classification of the Philippines which is dry from December to April and wet during the rest of the year,” discussed by Dr. Robert T. Ngidlo, project leader from IfSU.

After the survey conducted among 175 farmers/key informants, it was found that there are six major climatic hazards that occur across the four project sites, namely 1) erratic rainfall, 2) low temperature, 3) typhoon, 4) El Niño, 5) La Niña, and 6) fog/cloudiness.

The effects of these hazards were categorized into three: 1) biological, which focuses on the life processes such as growth, resistance, and reproduction; 2) physical, which focuses on environmental physical conditions; and 3) health, which focuses on farmers’ well-being.

The documented biological effects are interference in pollination during the flowering stage, increase in insect pest population particularly rice bugs, thickening of stalks and leave, delayed panicle initiation and grain formation, growth stunting, and more.

In terms of physical effects, the climate hazards have caused increase in flooding depths, loosening of soil, frequent landslides and collapse of dikes and walls, and soil infertility.

The major effect on health is the lowering capacity of farmers to work in the terraces during extreme weather conditions. Since the farmers belong to the middle and older age groups, they have become more vulnerable to diseases and illnesses since cold months have gotten colder while warm months have gotten warmer.

“Viral diseases such as acute respiratory infection, fever, flu, and pneumonia obtained the highest frequency in all the sites. Dengue fever tends to be more dominant in Ifugao and Kalinga but not in Apayao and Mt. Province, There are reported cases of malaria in all the study sites but appear to be more pronounces in Apayao and Kalinga,” Dr. Ngidlo discussed.

Adaptation strategies amidst climate extremes

The survey and documentation found that the farmers in all sites have been employing certain adaptive methods in order to combat against the effects of climate change.

The primary strategy they have been employing is adjusting the cropping calendar. “Farmers have successfully evaded injuries imposed climate hazards by moving their cropping calendar to the more favorable months of the year which coincides with the warmer months from January to June,” the proponents stated.

The farmers are also successful in classifying which traditional rice varieties are apt for wet and dry seasons which improved yield and income. Modern farming practices such as 1) mechanization, 2) use of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers, 3) use of high-yielding and early-maturing rice varieties, are also performed in order to hasten and optimize production.

Since water is the most vital constituent in rice terraces farming, most of the activities being held by the farmers are concentrated on water/irrigation management. The documented water management strategies are 1) repair and maintenance of dikes, 2) use of PVC pipes to convey water from source to the terraces, and 3) use of irrigation canals.

“The four study sites use a variety of ways to control pest and diseases. These are: use of resistance rice varieties, use of chemical spray, manual removal or handpicking, proper timing of planting to avoid pest, and no control measures being applied,” Dr. Ngidlo elucidated.

To address soil infertility, the farmers utilize commercial organic fertilizer with inorganic fertilizer and compost. They also use less aromatic varieties which can thrive well in nutrient-less soil than the traditional heirloom rice varieties.

It is also documented that farmers conduct alternate flooding and draining of water in the rice paddies in order to allow sunlight hit the paddy surface and to reduce zinc deficiency, a disease locally known as Lisao or Lanu, which affects soil health and plant growth.

Local policies were also arranged in order to have equal and harmonious rice production among communities. The Lampesa system is implemented to manage the distribution of water during water-lean months.

“The Lapat system is declared when a member of the community passes away, putting a portion of a river or forest off limits to human activities for a certain period of time. The length of Lapat is based on the status or prominence of the person who passed away…Although the Lapat system is more on the conservation of biodiversity, it may also enhance climate change resiliency when natural resources are restricted from use to allow healing even for a limited period of time,” Dr. Ngidlo explained. ### (Leila Denisse E. Padilla)

Ifugao’s Tinawon increases production through CPAR

tinawon rice1Preserving a taste, protecting a heritage – this is how the rice growers of Ifugao want the heirloom rice production to be recognized.

Tinawon, one of the heirloom rice varieties thriving in the Cordillera region, is creating a niche market in the global world. What makes it special? Aside from being planted in a world heritage site, this kind of rice is being planted through organic means which adds to its value and quality as an export commodity. Due to its exquisite aroma, distinct taste, and unique texture, the Tinawon rice is yearly exported to the United States where demand is constantly rising.

In 2011, the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) supported the Tinawon production project under its Community-based Participatory Action Research (CPAR) program. It aims to increase the production of Tinawon as well as to supplement the export volume in order to sustain the needs of the farmers. Through the project, farmers were taught on using bio-organic and foliar fertilizers, early transplanting, and proper distancing.

According to Dr. Catherine Buenaventura, supervising agriculturist of Ifugao’s Provincial Agriculture Environment and Natural Resources Office (PAENRO), “these interventions led to a five percent increase in the production of Tinawon rice during the first cycle.” As for the project development, she furthered that the procurement of facilities such as thresher and other equipment for the processing of by-products such as rice coffee and rice wine will be needed.

tinawon rice2Led and managed by Mr. Jimmy Lingayo, the Rice Terraces Farmers Cooperative (RTFC) serves as a ready market for the harvest and production of Tinawon. It is composed of farmer-members from Banaue, Hingyon, Hungduan, Mayoyao, Asipulo, Aguinaldo, and Kiangan in the province of Ifugao. In 2006, RTFC became a registered cooperative through the Cooperative Development Authority and became a certified organic rice producer through the Organic Certification Center of the Philippines (OCCP) in 2011.

Last year, the cooperative was able to export 11 tons of heirloom rice to US, a significant increase from the 2006 export volume of Tinawon amounting to 3 tons. The facility also started to cater to the local market in 2009 where up to the present, 4 tons have already been supplied. Currently, a kilogram of Tinawon rice is priced at P100.

The RTFC houses the Tinawon rice export facility. It also serves as a venue for activities such as marketing of heirloom rice, selling of heirloom rice seeds, rice hulling and milling, heirloom rice gifts and souvenirs, processing of coffee and banana, micro-finance loan, and other rental activities. ### (Anne Camille Brion)

Soon to hit the market: An anti-diabetic, natural sweetener from sweet sorghum

sorghum sweeterA natural sweetener from sweet sorghum syrup will be hitting the market soon. And it comes in fine, milky-looking powder form.

When asked how different the sweet sorghum sweetener is from the commercially available sweetener in the market, Mr. Antonio S. Arcangel, general manager of the Bapamin Enterprise, had no qualms in proudly stating the facts. “It’s all natural and it has medium-low glycemic index compared to other sweetener which is good for diabetics.”

“In terms of physical attributes, sweet sorghum powder is fine in texture and slightly hygroscopic which means that it has good solubility even in cold water and has high flavor retention. Taste-wise, it is milky and has a distinctly sweet taste that does not leave any after taste in the tongue or add any unnecessary flavor to your beverage,” he said.

Mr. Arcangel developed the sweetener from sweet sorghum syrup through the project, “Value Added Technique in Sweet Syrup: Spray Drying and Packaging for Convenience Market,” which is funded by the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) under its National Technology Commercialization Program (NTCP).

The goal of the project is to convert the sweet sorghum syrup into a high value food product such as the powder sweetener and packaged them into sachets for convenient handling and longer shelf life. “An important component of this project is the acquiring of a spray drying machine to do the main job: convert the syrup into powder in large volume,” Mr. Arcangel explained.

The spray drying machine

Recently, together with a visiting group from BAR’s Technology Commercialization Division (TCD) and Applied Communications Division (ACD), Mr. Arcangel and his group conducted a dry-run to test the machine. According to Mr. Arcangel, the machine originally came from Germany and was eventually fabricated in the Philippines. “At about 15 feet tall, the spray dryer for sweet sorghum is only the fifth of its kind in the Philippines,” he added.

In a six hour operation, the machine can process and convert a 10-kilo of the sweet sorghum feedstock (syrup) into powder form. This will be packaged in sachet, each containing 10 grams. The 10 kilo powder sweetener will produce around 1,000 sachets. The suggested retail price will be at P3.50 per sachet which makes it competitive.

Comparing it to other natural sweeteners

Probably two of the great competitors of sweet sorghum sweetener in the market are Stevia and coco sugar. Both are packaged and sold as natural sweetners which are also anti-diabetic. But Mr. Arcangel has more to say about his product over the two top competitors.

“Plantation-wise, sweet sorghum is easy to grow and maintain. Since it is an introduced crop from India, sweet sorghum is drought-resistant and is suitable for planting even in non-irrigated, marginal areas. Also, collecting feedstocks (syrup) is much easier and larger in volume compared to Stevia plant wherein sweetener is mainly extracted from its leaves.

When it comes to coco sugar, sweet sorghum sweetener has a better advantage. It is cheaper to produce. Unlike coconut sap sugar production, which is done virtually by manual methods from harvest to cooking for sugar crystallization, the production of sweet sorghum sweetener is mechanized allowing for bulk volume. And with the spray-drying facility to back up the anticipated demand in volume, the prospect becomes more promising for the sweetener from sweet sorghum.

Packaging and marketing

Part of the component of the project is its taste improvement and testing. Packaging and labeling will be the last segment which is important in attracting customers and reaching the international market.

Bapamin will produce a sample volume soon. “We intend to release it in August during the BAR’s National Agriculture and Fisheries Technology Forum and Product Exhibition at SM Megamall,” announced Mr. Arcangel.

“This will be sold in specialty stores, more of a niche market that is into selling organic and natural products like Healthy Choices in Greenhills. Hopefully, after we launched the product, we will tap 10 outlets in Metro Manila as outlets. We want to cater to the anti-diabetics, travelers, food, coffee shops and others that need a fixed sweetener volume of single packs,” Mr. Arcangel explained.

Although not in the mainstream market yet, Bapamin has been an active participant in various agricultural trade fairs and exhibits wherein they have been showcasing the sweetener from sweet sorghum.

“Two years ago, we met someone in the Agrilink exhibit who has been using coco sugar. We urged him to try our sweetener and mix it with the sweet sorghum vinegar. We also asked him to have his condition regularly monitor by his doctor to know if it’s effective. Ever since, until today, he comes to our house to get his supplies. He is even willing to give his testimonies for our product. After two years of using the sweetener, he felt strong and he can now walk without a cane. ### (Rita T. Dela Cruz)

BAR gears up for 9th Agriculture and Fisheries Technology Forum and Product Exhibition

9thntf poster 2013 final low resThe Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) gears up for the 9th Agriculture and Fisheries Technology Forum and Product Exhibition on 8-11 August 2013 at SM Mega Trade Hall 2, Mandaluyong City. This will coincide with the celebration of BAR’s 26th Anniversary.

Carrying the the theme, Pagpapalaganap ng Teknolohiya Para sa Mataas na Antas ng Pagnenegosyong Pangsakahan at Pangisdaan,” the four-day event aims to identify, disseminate, and promote mature technologies in the fields of agriculture and fisheries; and to establish and strengthen linkages and networks with private sector, non-government organizations (NGOs), local government units and other government agencies in terms of product marketing.

The event expects to draw crowd coming from various stakeholders including attached agencies and regional field units of the Department of Agriculture (DA), research institutions, local government units, private sector, NGOs, researchers and students from various state universities and colleges. The event will especially cater to individuals who are looking into the possibility of venturing into the agribusiness sector and in search for the right investments and sourcing of raw materials.

Annually organized by BAR, the event highlights some of the important technologies generated under its National Technology Commercialization Program (NTCP), one of banner programs of the bureau. NTCP serves as a vital tool for the development of enterprises and the improvement of agriculture- and fisheries-related industries.

The exhibit area will accommodate around 93 exhibitors showcasing various products, services, and commerciable technologies on: high-value crops, natural products/natural ingredients for health and wellness, organic agriculture, climate change, apiculture, biofuels, livestock and fisheries.

Featured technologies and products are generated by BAR partner R&D institutions including Department of Agriculture (DA) attached agencies, staff bureaus, Regional Field Units (RFUs), Regional Integrated Agricultural Research Centers (RIARCs), Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Regional Fisheries Research and Development Center (RFRDCs), State Universities and Colleges (SUCs), private sector, and NGO-partners.

There will also be technical presentations and technology demonstrations to be presented by invited resource speakers from various fields, sharing of experiences, and success stories of farmer beneficiaries, business matching opportunities for possible partnerships, and other ventures for profitable agricultural enterprises.

With the introduction of new technologies, products and services that are available in the market, the event hopes to attract more trade leads and joint ventures among industry players. ### (Ma. Eloisa H. Aquino)


DA pays tribute to farmers, fishers conquering world market

cpar farmerThe country pays tribute to the hardworking labor force and stakeholders of Philippine agriculture and fishery sector as the Department of Agriculture leads the nationwide celebration of Farmers' and Fisherfolk's Month, with the theme: “Magsasaka't Mangingisdang Pilipino, Kaya nang Makipagsabayan sa Mundo.”

''This month of May, we recognize and commend the contribution of small farmers, fishers, ruralfolk, and other stakeholders of the country’s agriculture and fishery industry who continue to heed the Aquino government's call to attain food sufficiency and sustainability,'' Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala said.

As part of the opening program on May 20, 2013, at the DA central office in Quezon City, Secretary Alcala — represented by Undersecretaries Joel Rudinas and Antonio Fleta, who co-chair this year’s farmers’ and fisherfolk’s month celebration — conferred a plaque of recognition to farmers’ groups and the private sector for being a part of a milestone in Philippine agriculture as their respective products were exported to other countries from March to May, this year.

Last March 16, 20 metric tons of yellow granex onions from Nueva Ecija were shipped to Osaka, Japan, as part of a partnership of DA, farmers’ groups and the National Onion Growers Cooperative Marketing Association (NOGROCOMA).

Forty days later, a shipment of 166 MT small red onions or ‘lasona’ from Ilocos and Cagayan Valley regions was delivered to Indonesia, courtesy of the Vegetables Importers, Exporters and Vendors Association (VIEVA).

On April 29, an initial 24 MT of corn feed silage for cattle was shipped to Busan, South Korea through the initiative of Ploughshares, Inc., National Corn Board and the DA corn program. The corn silage was sourced from farmers in Pangasinan.

On May 6, the DA rice program in collaboration with farmer-members of Don Bosco Multi-Purpose Cooperative (DBMPC) in Cotabato, SL Agritech Corp., and VIEVA, has exported an initial 35 MT of organic black rice (15MT) aromatic Jasponica rice (20MT) to Dubai.

Last May 15, another batch of 15MT of organic black, brown and red rice from DBMPC was delivered to HongKong.

''These are testaments to the Filipinos' competitiveness, showing to the world that our small farmers are now ready to compete,'' Secretary Alcala said.

The Farmers’ and Fisherfolk’s month celebration at the DA central office in Quezon City also features a week-long ‘tiangge’ or farm and food products for sale, and cooking demonstrations of various menus using brown rice, white corn, cassava, tanglad, stevia, and asitava, among others farm and fishery commodities. Both offerings are open to the public.

The month of May is celebrated every year as “Farmers and Fisherfolk’s Month” under Presidential Proclamation No. 33 to give due recognition to the invaluable contribution of farmers, fishers, and other agri-fishery industry stakeholders to nation’s sustained economic and inclusive growth. (Adora D. Rodriguez, DA-Agriculture & Fisheries Information Service)