Sunday, April 26, 2009
I just returned from an East Coast trip where I attended the Stony Field Farm Entrepreneurship Institute at the University of New Hampshire and then went on to a tradeshow for Associated Buyers, Eighth Wonder’s distributor to independent grocery and natural food stores in New England. I arrived back in Montana to late April snow flurries, but that is nothing compared to the ordeal that Vicky is currently experiencing in the Philippines.

Vicky left on an overnight bus to Kalinga on Wednesday, April 23. She is traveling with a program grant monitor from the Peace and Equity Foundation, a Philippine non-profit that supports the work of civil society organizations in eradicating poverty and marginalization. (In April 2008, the Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project was awarded a Panibagong Paraan (meaning “a new way”) grant from the foundation.) Vicky had scheduled a meeting between the PEF representative and the farmers’ associations in Lubuagan and Pasil, Kalinga, as part of the PEF’s monitoring and evaluation process for the grant.

Despite the unseasonable heavy rains, they arrived in the provincial capital of Tabuk as scheduled. In Tabuk, Vicky had arranged for a private 4-wheel drive vehicle to take them into Upper Kalinga.

Rain and road construction make travel treacherous

Rain and road construction make travel treacherous

Despite worsening road conditions, and getting stuck in the mud on the treacherous mountain road, they were able to reach Upper Kalinga. Farmer attendance was good and Vicky reported that they had very successful meetings.

Lubugan farmers turn out to meet PEF monitor

Lubugan farmers turn out to meet PEF monitor

The program monitor was able to see first hand the farmers’ commitment to the project, as well as the dynamics and the ability of project participants to understand their responsibilities regarding the management of milling machines and the business as a whole.

Despite the weather, Pasil farmers show commitment to the project

Despite the weather, Pasil farmers show commitment to the project

But getting back to Tabuk has been another matter. Texting from her cell phone on Friday April 25, Vicky reported that since yesterday afternoon the party has been stranded along the Lubuagan-Tabuk Road, just past the Tomiangan bridge. They are now in a group of about 100 travelers. A major landslide of approximately 75 meters is blocking the road and people cannot pass, even on foot, because of the continual falling debris.

Part of the landslide blocking the road

Part of the landslide blocking the road

In a testament to Vicky’s indomitable spirit and personal resiliency, she reports that she now has had plenty of time to familiarize the PEF representative about the project and he gets to experience for himself the difficulties of working in remote mountain areas. He also has had the opportunity to see that despite these difficulties there is an extraordinary commitment by RICE, Inc, its field staff and the farmers to make the project work.

I will post again, as soon as I hear that Vicky, the RICE, Inc staff and guest have arrived safely in Tabuk.

Advertisements