The Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project strives to be a model for culturally sensitive economic development. In reality, it takes a lot of time and energy to raise the visibility of the project, the farmers, the terraces and, of course, the rice. Over the past two months, Vicky has given presentations to both government agencies and an international organization; met with an American chef and food journalist at the International Food Exposition Philippines; and accompanied an international foundation representative and a documentary film maker on trips to meet and interview farmers involved in the project. (If Autobus and Victory Liner had frequent traveler program, Vicky would surely be in their elite mileage programs.

XinYa Media, Singapore

Documentary filmmaker Forss visits project

Documentary filmmaker Forss visits project

Between May 15 and 18, Vicky had the privilege of accompanying documentary filmmaker Pearl Forss to meet and interview farmers involved in the Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project. At the Chinese Media Group XinYa, Ms Forss heads programming and production of documentaries highlighting sustainable development. She was previously a senior broadcast journalist at Channel News Asia.

During her visit to the Philippines, Ms Forss met with farmers in the Hungduan (Ifugao) Farmers Association, interviewed their municipal Agriculturist Alfonso Cayong and viewed terraces being restored through RICE’s Adopt a Terrace Program.

We hope that her interviews and filming will result in a segment in their upcoming series highlighting successful programs that are addressing poverty in Asia.

Meeting with farmers in Hungduan, Ifugao

Meeting with farmers in Hungduan, Ifugao

International Food Exposition (IFEX) Philippines 2010
During the first week of May, Vicky met Louisa Chu, an American chef and food writer, who was an invited foreign journalist to the International Food Exposition (IFEX) Philippines in Pasay City. This year’s IFEX focused on food manufacturers and exporters from five different regions of the Philippines: Calabarzon, Bicol, Central Visayas, Northern Mindanao and Caraga.

International Food Expo Philippines 2010

International Food Expo Philippines 2010

Louisa had been introduced to the heirloom rice of the Cordillera through Lennie DiCarlo, founder and CEO of xroads Philippine Sea Salts™, a US importer of quality, hand-harvested natural sea salts from the Philippines. Lennie DiCarlo has been a project supporter since she met Mary at the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco several years ago.

Showing off the heirloom rice

Showing off the heirloom rice

Although the farmers were not displaying their rice at the Expo this year, Vicky had the opportunity to talk with Chef Louisa about the project and show her the farmers’ export quantity rice. During the course of their discussion, Chu quoted Chef Thomas Keller, who in one of their session had said, “that there will be time when it will no longer be the chefs who draw people’s attention to food, but the farmers who are the producers of the food.” This was certainly an apropos insight since RICE, Inc. had just assisted the Cordillera terrace farmers in submitting an application to designate three native rice varieties to the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity’s “Ark of Taste”.

Due to a very full schedule of IFEX activities, Louisa couldn’t make a trip up to the terraces, but at least she had an opportunity to become better acquainted with the project and the heirloom rice.

Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR-CAR)
At the end of April, Vicky gave a project presentation to provincial officers at a meeting sponsored by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR-CAR). Although the DAR had been introduced to the project during a National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) seminar in Baguio in 2007, it was the farmers in DAR’s Agrarian Rural Communities who asked why there was no partnership with the project.

Asia Rice Foundation (USA) Annual Meeting at IRRI
On April 20, Vicky gave a project update to the Asia Rice Foundation (USA), whose annual meeting was being held this year at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Los Banos. The meeting had a video/audio link to members gathered in Ithaca, NY and Davis, CA.

Meeting of Asia Rice Foundation (USA) at IRRI

Meeting of the Asia Rice Foundation (USA) at IRRI

Vicky took the opportunity to report back on the region-wide evaluation and planning workshop for the Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project, which was generously underwritten by the Asia Rice Foundation (USA). The workshop was held January 13-15, 2009 at the NIA compound in La Trinidad, Benguet. For the first time, it brought together stakeholders, farmers and project partners from the three provinces of Ifugao, Kalinga and Mountain Province and plus observer representatives from Benguet province. Thirty-two stakeholders attended the three-day workshop, which was professionally facilitated.

During the course of the presentation, Vicky was asked if the red and violet/black seed coated varieties had been tested for anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are a powerful antioxidant that is found in red/purplish fruits and vegetables, including purple cabbage, beets, blueberries, cherries, raspberries and purple grapes. Interest in anthocyanin pigments has increased because of their possible health benefits as dietary antioxidants, which may have preventive and therapeutic roles in a number of human diseases. Although testing of the rice had been considered, it was found to be too expensive. There was an offer from one member to see if her lab could do some testing. Eighth Wonder has since sent samples for testing and we anxiously await the results!

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