Gearing up against El Niño: RISE meeting highlights technologies, convergence

To prepare for the impending El Niño, the DA, through the Office of the Undersecretary for Rice Industry Development, held the Rise Industry Stakeholders Engagement (RISE) meeting in the Science City of Munoz, Nueva Ecija on 27-28 July 2023. 

DA Undersecretary for Rice Industry Development Leocadio Sebastian, in his message, underscored the need to focus on irrigation, market, and adoption of technologies promoted by the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice). “This was also a similar experience done by our neighboring countries in the Asian region like Thailand….  [I]rrigation and market are crucial elements in rice production,” he said.

In taking the necessary steps to weaken the impact of El Nino and turn this into an opportunity, the two-day conference came up with “five sets of reminders”. Sebastian emphasized that these five sets of reminders will serve as an important guide for all stakeholders under the MRIDP program. 

First, to help in the validation of the risk areas vulnerable to El Niño, the PhilRice had already distributed the maps to all agencies involved in the program. These maps could be used for validating vulnerable risk areas to El Niño. 

Second to be highlighted was the importance of updating and finalizing the list of irrigators associations. This was followed by Sebastian’s discussion on the need to meet the League of Provinces of the Philippines and Regional Management Committees to help in identifying municipalities and provinces affected by El Niño and to plan out necessary preparations. 

On convergence, the need for implementing agencies to establish a demonstration farm on fertilizer and hybrid seed for this coming dry season was noted. All necessary interventions, including training in the cluster municipalities through convergence with an aim to increase rice production and thereby increase the income of farmers,  will also be put in place. 

The last of the five reminders was on contract growing with the National Food Authority, which according to Sebastian will start this season. Through the convergence, the NFA will buy directly the palay of the farmers and which they have a sure market already. 

“This is an opportunity for us to focus on the whole strategy...We will encourage even the private sector to start connecting with the clusters...If the market is available and the farmers have a good income, definitely the farmers will adopt the technology,” he underscored. 

The meeting also highlighted strategies focused on convergence initiatives, coordination, and cooperation among rice stakeholders. Attending the meeting were officials and representatives from different agencies involved in the DA-Masagana Rice Industry Development Program (MRIDP) 2023-2028, such as the Bureau of Agricultural Research. (### Lea B. Calmada)