Philippine Rice Terraces


A test run of a new air screen processing machine is taking place at PhilRice this weekend. The Rice Terrace Farmers Cooperative (RTFC) processed samples of newly harvested rice and sent them to PhilRice for testing the prototype. The air screen machine was custom designed and built for the Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project. The machine has different sized screens, which will screen off the broken grains; and a fan, which will blow the last bits of chafe and bran dust off the rice. This process will replace the labor-intensive hand winnowing that the farmers have been doing after the dehulling and partial milling.

Replacing the labor intensive winnowing with an air screen machine

Replacing the labor intensive winnowing with an air screen machine

As the volume of sales increase, we are working hard to make the processing stage less labor intensive. With appropriate technology machines, the rice processing will be more efficient and the quality of the finished product will improve.

The design and building of this machine was made possible, in part, by a grant from the Social Action Committee of the Kamloops United Church in Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada.  For two years, the Kamloops United Church has helped fund the Quality Control Trainings for the Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project. Because of this new processing machine, the rice shipped from the cooperative should  need no additional processing. The first rice to pass through this additional processing will be shipped directly to a Fair Trade distributor in Canada for packaging and sale in Canada. Our heartfelt thanks to the Kamloops United Church for making this distribution expansion into Canada possible!

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Since I began working on this project almost 10 years ago, it has been my dream to put the native rice from the terraces of northern Luzon in the culinary spotlight for people who care about the food they eat and the farmers who produce it. I have dreamed of the day when tinawon and unoy conjure images of the Philippines, just as jasmine and basmati evoke Thailand and India.

The Essential Good Food Guide by Margaret Wittenberg (Ten Speed Press)

The Essential Good Food Guide by Margaret Wittenberg (Ten Speed Press)

The dream takes a big step toward becoming a reality when Margaret Wittenberg’s new and fully revised book “The Essential Good Food Guide” (Ten Speed Press) is released this week. The author has added an entirely new section, Cordillera Heirloom Rice, under the Medium-Grain Rice heading. In it, she gives a brief background of the historic terrace area, a general description of the varieties and then, by name, a complete description of each of the three staple varieties and three sticky rice varieties that are currently available on the market. Under the Long-Grain Rice heading, there is a complete description of the Ulikan Red.

Margaret Wittenberg has written the definitive guide for navigating our super market aisles, natural food stores and farmers’ markets in the search for the ingredients that will make cooking and eating good food a pleasurable experience. It is wonderful to see the heirloom rice of the Cordillera included in this great resource book. This is definitely a book to share with people who love to cook and care about what they eat.

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Town_storeThe city of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin has been in the fair trade news recently, and for good reason! Not only has Fond du Lac become the latest (and 32nd!) US Fair Trade Town but also, on World Fair Trade Day 2013, Fairtrade.us announced that its first annual Reader’s Choice Award for the Favorite Fair Trade Store went to their very own Just Fare Market.

As founder of the Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project in the Philippines and supplier of Fair Trade heirloom rice to the Just Fare Market, I know first hand that this extraordinary store does much more than provide an outlet for crafts, clothing and food products from developing countries.

The Just Fare Market works hard to fulfill its mission to educate the community about the benefits of fair trade and remind consumers that a difference can be made when people consider how and by whom products are produced.
Earlier this year, the farmers in the Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project were highlighted by the Just Fare Market, both in the store and on their website. The store’s Volunteer Committee hosted an evening “rice party” for volunteers that combined fun, product education and a tasting of our heirloom rice that volunteers had prepared as rice fritters, fried rice, blueberry rice pudding and rice salad.

Just Fare Market_Page        rice party 002

When volunteer Marcia McLaughlin learned of our Adopt-A-Terrace initiative to restore and rehabilitate damaged and abandoned terraces, she requested that the project be part of the store’s artisan fund, which invites customers to round up to the nearest fifty cents or dollar when they make a purchase.

Through this fund, the volunteers and customers have adopted a terrace in Pasil, Kalinga and are supporting Gudilea Ayangdo to repair her terraces, which were damaged during a major typhoon in 2011.
Damaged Terraces

To this amazing store and community, thank you! Positive change happens when people work together to support each other. Whether its called bayanihan or Fair Trade, it’s about making our communities and our world a better place for all.

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Celebrating local food in Cagaluan, Pasil, Kalinga

Celebrating local food in Cagaluan, Pasil, Kalinga

Traditional "long table"

Traditional “long table”

The “long table” stretched almost 20 meters. Farmers from the eight villages in the municipality of Pasil, Kalinga gathered in celebration. Men had cut the giant bamboo poles from the nearby forest for the event and lashed them together to make the sturdy serving and eating platform. Banana leaves and split banana tree trunks were gathered and would serve as the plates; rattan baskets as trays and coconut shells as bowls. This is tradition.

Low fired clay cooking pots from Pasil are renowned for their quality

Low fired clay cooking pots from Pasil are renowned for their quality

Women, gracefully carrying the giant clay pots on their heads, arrive with the dishes of native rice and local vegetables. The Pasil women are renowned for their hand-built, low-fired ceramic clay cooking vessels. The perfect clay is found only in the villages of Dangtalan and Dalupa. Each village brought traditional food, local produce and delicacies to share.

Traditional sticky rice dessert called inanjila

Traditional sticky rice dessert called inanjila

A bounty of vegetables grow in Pasil's cool climate

A bounty of vegetables grow in Pasil’s cool climate

The children had cleaned the area and gathered firewood. Teachers had worked with them on their performance of traditional dances. The program also included farmer leaders and elders sharing their experiences of farming “before”, in words and in ballad songs. After the celebration of local food, there was time to talk with the guests from the Department of Agriculture about farming and their current irrigation and pest problems.

Keeping traditions alive in the next generation

Keeping traditions alive in the next generation

A little rain didnt dampen the spirit of the event

A little rain didnt dampen the spirit of the event

There were many meetings with barangay councils and farmer leaders in order to make this event happen. Participation in the Terra Madre/ Salone del Gusto in Italy and the Indigenous People’s Terra Madre in Sweden have given their leaders new insights about valuing indigenous knowledge, protecting the traditional seeds of the communities, and the value of growing healthy, clean food within the community. As they share these ideas with their neighbors, people are beginning to feel a part of the international movement to protect indigenous rights, traditions, foods and seeds; and that as farmers, they are not alone in their struggles.

Farmer leaders Lam-en and Rowena Gonnay

Farmer leaders Lam-en and Rowena Gonnay

This 3rd annual Terra Madre event was about a community coming together to celebrate their richness and diversity, honoring the old ways and planning for a sustainable future for the next generation. Farmer said they were proud of what they have accomplished and are working to revive the traditional seeds in the community through gathering and sharing their knowledge on preservation and reproduction.

Pictures and descriptions provided by Rowena and Lam-en Gonnay

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Vicky Garcia, Raymunda Mamaril, Rowena Gonnay and Jimmy Lingayo represented the traditional rice producers of the Cordillera

Vicky Garcia, Raymunda Mamaril, Rowena Gonnay and Jimmy Lingayo represented the Philippines and the traditional rice producers of the Cordillera

Once again, farmers from the Cordillera region were privileged to attend the 2012 Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre event, which was held October 25-29 in Turin, Italy. The Philippine delegation included three farmers representing the traditional rice producing communities whose rice varieties are included in the Slow Food Foundation’s “Ark of Taste” and Vicky Garcia, the executive director of the RICE, Inc., the NGO supporting the farmers participating in the Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project.

One of the main workshop events of the Salone Del Gusto was the Terra Madre Network’s Taste Workshop on Traditional Rices of Asia. Rice is the staple food half of the world’s population but it also has deep cultural and spiritual significance within Asian cultures. In this sold out workshop, producers and experts from Sri Lanka, the Philippines, South Korea and Indonesia presented stories of that cultural connection and a taste sampling of a traditional rice recipe.

Preparing a traditional suman dessert rice using the ominio variety of Mountain Province, Philippines.

Preparing a traditional suman dessert rice using the ominio variety of Mountain Province, Philippines.

Raymunda Mamaril, representing the ominio rice producers of Barlig Mountain Province, showcased the dark purple sticky rice in a traditional dessert recipe made with brown sugar and coconut milk and wrapped in a banana leaf. Raymunda was assisted in her presentation by Margarita Fores, owner and chef of the CIBO restaurant chain in the Philippines. Chef Fores, who is known for bringing the modern taste of Italy to the Philippines, had the opportunity to reverse her role by speaking about this traditional rice in Italy.

Raymunda Mamaril and Chef Margarita Fores talk about the ominio dessert during the Taste Workshop on Asian rices.

Raymunda Mamaril and Chef Margarita Fores talk about the ominio dessert to participants at the sold-out Taste Workshop on Asian rices.

We would like to thank Elena Aniere, program coordinator at Slow Food International, for making this important workshop on traditional rice varieties possible. We would also like to give a special thank you to Margarita Fores, who brought her culinary expertise and charm to this endeavor and made it a truly professional presentation.

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Certificate of Recognition

Congratulations to the Rice Terraces Farmers Cooperative

The Provincial Government of Ifugao through its Project on the Certification of Ifugao Products awarded a Certificate of Recognition to the Rice Terraces Farmers Cooperative (RTFC) as a producer of an Ifugao certified product.

The RTFC was recognized for its processing and marketing of traditional heirloom rice that is grown by its members in the mountain terraces of Ifugao.

The Provincial Government of Ifugao launched the Ifugao Certified Products Seal of Excellence initiative as a way to identify and promote outstanding provincial products that can be globally competitive and also represent the identity of the province. Products designated as such will be allowed carry the Ifugao Seal of Excellence.

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Vicky_in_village_1x6
sidebar_hands2As Director of RICE, Inc., I walk many painful miles through the terraces to attend local meetings with the farmers and provide training sessions.  I am often invited into the homes of the farmers to share a meal and visit.

The faces of the farmers and the stories that they tell about how the project has affected their lives are what keeps me going when I get discouraged by the funding setbacks, the bureaucracy that hinders more than it helps, the floods, the landslides and all the difficulties that the farmers and the project face every year.

The story of Nanay Pacita resonates in my mind. I see her in a group of older women; she stands out, erect, her face lined by hard work.   Even though she is 60+ years old she doesn’t wear glasses and her keen eyes closely follow the information in the training session on Quality Control.  When asked why she had come to the training session she replied,

“I am encouraged by your consistent invitation for all farmers to be part of the rice development. Me and my family are so helped by this project, not just the technical part of training with machines or equipment but you allowed us to be involved as we are…you asked me to hold the pen and sign my name; to write my thoughts. A long time ago, when I was in grade school, I held the pen and learned to write my name.  I didn’t finish school.  I put down my pen and worked in the fields all the years of my life. I am now old and as long as I remember, I have not done any writing until I became part of this program.”

At the session break, I continued our conversation asking her again why coming to the meeting was important to her.   She answered with a shy smile.  “I feel honored to be part of the program where I am valued as an important member of the group. I told you that now I have to sign my name each time I sell my rice. In the past we sell our rice and nothing follows: no knowing or asking of names, information about us or coming back to inquire about what else we need.  But this project,  it is all about the production, the rice, the process and the farmer.  I am so happy. “

“Going to the paddy terrace is what I am good at doing. I do all the work of softening the soil, weeding our paddy and all the work needed to be done on the farm.  At the end of the day I go home, wash my hands, eat and the next day go back to the farm. That is the cycle of my life. Now, I get to hold the pen, sign my name and write on the application. Even if I have to copy the words, which someone gives me, I used the pen to write.  I attend a meeting such as this and am part of the activity.  Before, a meeting for a farmer like me was no place to be.   But you insistently ask for our attendance. Being here is difficult but feels good because I am part of something very important for my self confidence, my family and my community.”

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As told to Vicky Garcia

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Rowena B. Gonnay from the Kalinga, Philippines visited Turin as a delegate to the Salone del Gusto and Slow Food Terra Madre 2012. This is her experience…

Originally posted at Slow Food Terra Madre Voices

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“Attending the global Terra Madre meeting in 2010 was a milestone in my life. I met with great people from the Slow Food network, made new friends from different countries and learned many things, in particular about food, seeds, and other indigenous products from around the world. I was deeply impressed by the warm hospitality of the host families, volunteers and staff organizing the event. When I returned home to the Philippines I took up the great challenge of spreading the message. I conducted farmers’ meeting in villages to spread information about keeping local seeds, traditional agricultural practices and knowledge passed from our ancestors to current generations. I started to organize Terra Madre gatherings at a village level, and while we celebrated and enjoyed indigenous foods and recipes I challenged all farmers to pass on their knowledge to the next generation.Rowena Gonnay

When I returned to Turin again this October, my second experience at Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre exceeded my expectations. The excitement had risen as one unified event brought together the Terra Madre network with Slow Food’s international fair, the Salone del Gusto.

As a farming leader in the indigenous community of Pasil, Kalinga, it was an honor to participate and see our traditional rice varieties displayed in the Biodiversity stand for Asia and Oceania. I am so proud that we in the remote community of Pasil still have this heirloom rice that our ancestors have preserved for thousand of years, and that we continue to plant it today despite having limited areas of production. Our rice was also cooked and served at the Philippines Stand, giving people from around the world the chance to taste it.

Hundreds of topics were discussed in forums during the five-day event, and we participated in the Asia and Oceania conferences. I was impressed and encouraged by the speakers at the Traditional Rice in Asia session, where the right to seeds and the rights of indigenous peoples was highlighted. We heard about traditional rice varieties being preserved in many other Asian countries and speakers from Malaysia and Indonesia shared their traditional methods of planting and harvesting that are deeply tied to the moon cycle and the stars.

This reminded me of when I was young. I remember our parents always observing the moon and signs from nature, such as bird songs, that signaled the moment to plant and harvest crops like rice, beans and tubers. They observed everything around them, and marked the agricultural seasons with rituals and traditions, but gradually these are all being lost.

Slow Food’s international event Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre is a challenge to all cultural minorities to redeem their culture and tradition from the influence of the modern world. I was impressed to see many products from all around the world and to meet the producers who brought them to the event. I tasted new foods and shared ideas with other delegates. I witnessed so much good work being done in the events. Now I willl share my experiences in our region, hoping to promote the revival of our food culture and traditions. I am very proud to be a member of Slow Food and now I understand that as long as we understand each other through shared goals, it doesn’t matter who we are or what language we speak.

Many thanks to the Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project and RICE Inc. who introduced our rice to Slow Food International and the deepest gratitude to everyone who help us join the movement, in particular Elena Aniere who visited us in Kalinga.

Rowena B. Gonnay
Slow Food Kalinga

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Heirloom rice of the Cordillera

Poster at Slow Food Terra Madre/Salone del Gusto

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The Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project is again well represented at the 2012 Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre, which is happening this week October 25-October 29 in Turin, Italy. Vicky Garcia heads our delegation along with farmer representatives from the three heirloom rice-producing communities that are represented in The Slow Food Foundation’s “Ark of Taste”.

In the opening ceremony attended by thousands of participants, speakers Alice Waters, Vandana Shiva and FAO Director José Graziano Da Silva, to name a few, addressed the themes of DIVERSITY, SEEDS, EDUCATION, NETWORK, EARTH, WATER, ENERGY and BIODIVERSITY. All of these ideas are central to the work of our project.

On Saturday October 27, the purple ominio sticky rice of Barlig, Mountain Province will be highlighted in a taste workshop on Traditional Rices of Asia.

 

On May 5, 2012, Rose Soneff and the Global and Community Action Committee of the Kamloops United Church (BC, Canada) hosted “Raising More than Rice” a delicious Filipino dinner and a narrated slideshow about the terraces and the Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project.

"Raising more than rice" dinner event

A great turnout of support from the Kamloops community

Over 70 people enjoyed a dinner of traditional Filipino dishes cooked by Rose, her family and church volunteers. Several varieties of heirloom rice from the terraces were used in preparing the meal.

Over a scrumptious coconut/sticky rice dessert that was made from the dark purple rice of Barlig, Mountain Province, Rose shared stories and pictures from her recent trip to the Philippines, her visit with farmers of the Rice Terrace’s Farmers Cooperative in Banaue, Ifugao and their effort to build a sustainable business for the sale of their heirloom rice. Everyone at the dinner went home with a complimentary gift bag of heirloom rice.

The event raised over $1600 to fund a series of quality control trainings and to purchase needed processing supplies for farmers involved in the Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project. The funds were used by Vicky Garcia and the staff of RICE, Inc to facilitate seven two-day quality control trainings in seven different municipalities across three provinces.

Inspecting the rice panicles

Inspecting the rice panicles

A total of 200 farmers participated in the seminars with 52 farmers attending
in the municipalities of Hungduan and Banaue, Ifugao; 117 farmers participating in seminars in the municipalities of Sadanga, Bauko, Tadian and Barlig, Mountain Province; and 31 farmers participating in the seminar held in Pasil, Kalinga. 78% of the participants were women.

Each training began with a sharing of experiences by members who had previously participated in the project’s rice consolidation and processing. A group activity followed in which farmers identified production problems within their areas.

Other sessions addressed the principles of Fair Trade in developing the project; what Fair Trade means for selling in the local and international market; and ways to strengthen the cooperative.

The second day focused on the Quality Control requirements for selling a premium quality product. During the session, farmers had the opportunity to discuss the issues/problems encountered during rice production in relation to meeting quality control standards, and what measures/solutions would help farmers meet those quality standards.

The final training session concluded with a hands-on activity focusing on rice processing.

Funds from the event purchased new heavy duty screens

Funds from the event purchased new heavy duty screens

A couple of the comments shared by the farmers during the assessment segment of the training:

  • The training is very informative. I learned something new about our rice, that quality begins with good seed and lasts until processing.
  • I am encouraged by this training… we were given the opportunity to ask and assess our level of understanding about our product; it is very empowering to be part of this training.
Participants in the Hungduan training

Participants in the Hungduan training

As a small NGO, these trainings would not have been possible without the support given by Rose and the Global and Community Action Committee. We are hoping that a long-term relationship can be built between the farmers and this wonderful group from Kamloops United Church.

And finally, the story comes full circle. A photograph taken during the Quality Control training in Ifugao will appear in the 2013 FTF/FTRN Fair Trade Calendar. This story began when a calendar photo moved a wonderful woman named Rose and she decided to make a difference.

Rose in Banaue

Rose in Banaue

Maraming Salamat po!

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