Rose Soneff of Kamloops, British Columbia saw a picture of the Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project (Philippines) in the beautiful 2011 Fair Trade Federation/Fair Trade Resource Network calendar. After contacting FTF member Eighth Wonder, Inc. for more information, Rose and her family visited the project and some of its farmers during their Christmas holiday in the Philippines. On Saturday May 5, Rose’s parish, the Kamloops United Church, will host a fund-raising dinner to support the project’s quality control seminars and the purchase of processing tools for the farmers. What a great Fair Trade story! One person, moved by a photograph, takes the time and effort to make a difference. Read more at http://kamloopsunited.ca/2012/03/raising-more-than-rice/
April 26, 2012
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April 8, 2012
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2011 was a tough year on many fronts. Typhoons causing floods, landslides and loss of lives had a devastating effect on the mountain provinces. Many terraces with standing crops were destroyed and roads and bridges crucial to moving food and supplies in and out of the mountainous region washed out.
In September in Baguio City the Regional Department of Agriculture-Marketing Division held a first ever Investment Forum on Heirloom Rice. Mary Hensley, President of Eighth Wonder, and Vicky Garcia were able to attend the event. Farmers and LGUs from every province in the mountain region came to the forum to showcase the hundreds of traditional rice grown in the Cordillera and discuss the opportunities and challenges of bringing their varieties to the market place.
After the devastating typhoons in the last quarter of 2011, the government and the private sector mobilized relief efforts to provide for the victims of the typhoons. Aid organizations in Manila contacted RICE, Inc. for assistance in making contact with the people in the affected area. Vicky Garcia helped coordinate with representations of the Rice Terraces Farmers Cooperative for the pick up and distribution of relief good to members of the community.
The project’s heirloom rice production areas are some of the only OCCP certified organic hectares in the Cordillera. The Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project has paved the way for introducing the indigenous producers of traditional rice to the organic movement. Because of this, Vicky Garcia was asked to speak about the project and her experiences at the 8th National Organic Agriculture Congress held at the Aquino Center, Luisita Hacienda in Tarlac City on November 8-11, 2011.
Project farmers were interviewed for a Vietnamese TV documentary on rural economic development and the Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project was showcased by the Participatory Impact Pathway Analysis (PIPPI) Learning Alliance October workshop. 30+ASEAN Farmer Delegates visited Banaue and had an opportunity to meet farmers and see the custom-designed post-harvest machines that are being used to process the heirloom rice as part of the project.
Although regional government funding in support of trainings was cut back in 2011, provincial and municipal local government units continued their support to their farmers:
In Ifugao the provincial government provided funds to build a small warehouse for the post harvest machines. Plans are in place to add a second story in 2012.
In Kalinga, negotiations are on-going to find a permanent home for processing. Mary and Vicky are hopeful that provincial office of the National Irrigation Authority will provide warehouse space in one of their vacant buildings.
April 6, 2012
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In June 2011, Vicky Garcia and project farmers Lamen Gonnay and Jimmy Lingayo joined over 200 representatives of indigenous communities from 31 countries at the first Indigenous Slow Food Terra Madre held in Jokkmokk, Sweden and hosted by the indigenous Sami Community.
It was an incredible experience to travel halfway around the world and then so far north to the land of the midnight sun above the Artic Circle.
Vicky Garcia was invited to be a speaker in the Food, Culture, Diversity and Traditional Knowledge seminar at the Slow Food Convivia held in Namyangju City, Republic of Korea. The Convivia was held in conjunction with the IFOAM Organic World Congress (OWC) in September 2011. The Slow Food Culture Center of Korea invited chefs, students, producers, and farmers from 12 Asian & Oceania countries. The conference was an opportunity to network with delegates from around the region and to promote the philosophy of Slow Food.
March 30, 2012
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Project farmers Rowena Gonnay and Jimmy Lingayo were invited by the Deshpande Foundation’s Centre for Social Entrepreneurship in Hubli, India to speak on a panel at a development conference entitled “ Leveraging Opportunities”. Their participation helped develop their confidence as community leaders and reinforced their belief that the farmers of the Cordillera can once again make traditional rice and the terraces culturally and economically relevant to a younger generation of farmers.
March 14, 2011
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Three years ago I began the process of nominating the heirloom rice of the Cordillera region to the Slow Food Foundation’s “Ark of Taste”. It seemed like a logical step in the effort to help preserve the native rice varieties still grown in the fragile ecosystems of the terraces and to validate the traditional farming practices that have kept those heirloom seeds alive. In July 2010, the three nominated varieties were accepted into the Ark. As a result of that designation, five farmers from the Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project plus Vicky Garcia, the executive director of RICE, Inc., the non-profit capacity building NGO, were invited to be delegates to the 2010 Slow Food Foundation’s Terra Madre gathering in Turin Italy October 19-25, 2010. As founder of the project and president of Eighth Wonder, Inc., the project’s US-based marketing partner, I was honored to join them at the Terra Madre as part of the Philippine delegation.
But to actually be sitting in the Palasport Olimpico in Turin Italy for the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Terra Madre was beyond my imagination. As I watched Blacio Akinchang, a farmer from a remote village in Mountain Province, carrying the Philippine flag during the opening ceremonies, the tears were streaming down my face.
I don’t think Blacio had ever been to Manila, let alone flown in an airplane. But there he was, an extremely proud farmer, representing not only our heirloom rice communities, but also the tens of thousands of indigenous farmers in the Cordillera still struggling to produce their native rice.
A tangible link had been made between these farmers and a supportive global community that understands and values the connection between indigenous knowledge, food, culture and environmental sustainability.
August 31, 2010
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It’s a common practice for the government to donate machines to farmers. It is not a common practice to provide follow up technical support on the operation and maintenance of the machines.
Three sets of custom-built post-harvest machines were designed, manufactured and installed for use in our project areas last year. (See our blog post August 23, 2009)
A basic operator training was given to the farmer/operators at the time of installation and the farmer/operators went on to successfully process their 2009 harvest for export sales and then subsequent amounts, throughout the year, for local domestic sales.
But machine operators felt that they needed a more intensive training on trouble shooting, repair and maintenance of their new machines. At the request of RICE, Inc., a training module was designed by the PhilRice Engineering Department, in coordination with JHT Manufacturing Company, the machine’s fabricator. A 2 day workshop at PhilRice August 19 and 20, 2010 provided a well organized training with both lectures and a “hands-on” practicum.
The trainers were excellent. They were able to present highly technical information in a practical way that made sense to the farmers. A training manual was written that outlined and described step-by-step processes; it was made easy with pictures and outlined descriptions. At least five different languages were spoken among the trainers and the eight participating farmer/operators. It was important that all operators learned and used a common language for the parts of the machines and the tools that they used.
The second day of the training focused on the “actual” troubleshooting and operation of the machine. Although the machines were not identical models, the participants were challenged to understand basic functions. Working as provincial teams, the participants had to dismantle and reassemble the “dehuller-grain paddy separator.” Each team had to work together; they had to understand how each part of the machine worked, and explain to the trainers what they were doing as they reassembled the machine.
The “rubber roll” shown at the left, which is used in dehulling the grain, is the perfect example of why there is a need for such training. The rubber rolls are very expensive parts. Not manufactured in the Philippines, they must be imported from Thailand or Vietnam. The rolls should be able to dehull at least 30MT of palay before they show wear. But this roller was worn out before 10 metric tons were dehulled. This indicates that the machine was not operated properly and that wear and tear on other parts of the machine would probably be indicated.
Training was also given on the micro-mill.
The project is still in need of a winnowing/air screen-cleaning machine to replace the hand winnowing currently being done. PhilRice is working on an appropriate design but we will still need to raise funds for the manufacturing and procurement of the machine.
PhilRice Deputy Director Eulito Bautista stopped by to observe the training and to highlight the partnership of PhilRice and the Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project. He said that the partnership still has much work to do in order to help the terraces farmers achieve the benefits of post harvest technology in their farming activity.
All agreed that it was a very successful training. Participants had achieved a new confidence as operators. They went home with new skills and a Machine Manual for Operators. PhilRice provided a holistic training design with very thorough, knowledgeable trainers and in an atmosphere of partnership. They also acknowledged the importance of follow up support to farmers who receive new machines and technologies.
We would like to sincerely thank PhilRice for their continued partnership on this project. We would especially like to thank the Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) at Benguet State University for the counter-part support in funding this training.
July 30, 2010
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It’s official! The International Ark Commission of the Slow Food Foundation has approved the inclusion of three varieties of heirloom rice from the Philippine Cordillera into the Foundation’s “Ark of Taste.”
The “Ark of Taste” aims to catalog, describe and publicize outstanding gastronomic foods and food products that are threatened in our globally changing world. Inclusion in the Ark means that the rice has met the foundation’s standards for taste quality, environmental sustainability and respect for the cultural identity of the producers. All products listed in the Ark are recognized to have real economic viability and commercial potential.
With listing of the first three rice varieties from Cordillera–Imbuucan from Ifugao, Ominio from Mountain Province and Chong-ak from Kalinga, the high-elevation terrace farmers are one step closer to making their heirloom rice an economic engine for the region and a means for preserving the fragile biodiversity of the terraces and the cultural identity of the indigenous people.