Philippine Rice Terraces


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/

May 5, 2012 Fundraiser for the Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project

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.

Despite all this, 2011 had many highlights and opportunities for the farmers and RICE, Inc. We would like to a share a few of the highlights.

Mountain Province display of Igorot rice

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.

Investment Forum on Heirloom Rice

Sticky Igorot Rice.........Talking Quality.........Benguet Province Display

 

Collapsed terrace in Hungduan

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.

Vicky with farmers from the Cordillera region

Vicky with farmers from the Cordillera region

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.

Vicky speaking at the National Organic Conference

Vicky speaking at the National Organic Conference

Interview for Vietnamese television

Interview for Vietnamese television

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:
 

Working together to make it happen

Working together to make it happen

In Mountain Province provincial and government units (LGUs)have consistently supported their farmers with the hauling of palay to processing center in Bontoc. Everyone worked together to get their rice processed, packed and ready for shipment to Manila.
 
Farmers thank Ifugao Governor Balitang for his support

Farmers thank Ifugao Governor Balitang for his support

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. 
Requesting support from the National Irrigation Administration- Kalinga Office

Requesting support from the National Irrigation Administration- Kalinga Office

 

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Vicky and Jimmy with Carlo Petrini, Slow Food's founder and president

Lamen Gonnay shares his experiences as a farmer and leader within the Kalinga community


 
 

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.

Slow Food Asia & Oceania Convivia, Namyangju City, Korea, September 2011

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Rowena Gonnay speaking at conference in India

Farmers share experiences in developing organic fertilizers from indigenous materials

 
 
 
 
 
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.

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Mary and Vicky-- Welcome to the 2010 Terra Madre

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.

Blacio Akinchang carries the Philippine flag during the opening ceremony

Blacio Akinchang carries the Philippine flag during the opening ceremony

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.

Blacio Akinchang

Blacio Akinchang

Philippine delegation in traditional dress

Philippine delegation in traditional dress

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.

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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)

Operator's Training at PhilRice August 19-20, 2010

Operator's Training at PhilRice August 19-20, 2010

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.

Operators were given hands on experience with processing machines

Operators were given hands on experience with processing machines

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.

An improperly used worn rubber roll

An improperly used worn rubber roll

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.

Learning the tools, the parts and even proper electrical wiring

Learning the tools, the parts and even proper electrical wiring

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.

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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.”

Official listing of Philippine heirloom rice to the "Ark of Taste"

Official listing of Philippine heirloom rice to the "Ark of Taste"

Ominio (top) and Imbuucan (below) grains

Ominio (top) and Imbuucan grains (below)

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.

Imbuucan (left) and Chong-ak grains (right)

Imbuucan (left) and Chong-ak grains (right)

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One of our most exciting project developments is our new connection to the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity (Italy). It seems an obvious alliance.

The Slow Food Foundation is a worldwide organization that has a mission to defend food biodiversity by supporting sustainable agriculture that safeguards the environment and the land. It promotes the production of small-scale quality food products and respect for cultural and gastronomic traditions.

One of the Foundation’s central initiatives is the “Ark of Taste”, which is a catalog of hundreds of extraordinary food products that are at risk of extinction. The rice of the Cordillera certainly fits the Foundation’s criteria for listing. The native rice of the Cordillera is not only an outstanding food product with a superior flavor, appearance and texture, but also, the rice is deeply intertwined with the culture of the indigenous people. Designation to the list would be one more step in the effort to get the international recognition and someday, the legal protection that the rice and the indigenous knowledge of the farmers deserves.

Mary Hensley, Ben Watson and Vicky Garcia (taking the picture) met in New Hampshire in October 2009

Mary Hensley, Ben Watson and Vicky Garcia (taking the picture) met in New Hampshire in October 2009

With the help and assistance of Ben Watson, the US representative to the International Ark Commission, we were able to formulate a strategy for nominating the rice to the Ark.

Initially, three varieties would be nominated–one variety from each of the provinces where the project operates. The varieties include the Imbuucan of Hingyon, Ifugao (Eighth Wonder’s Tinawon Fancy), the Chong-ak variety of Pasil, Kalinga (aka Kalinga Unoy) and the Ominio variety of Barlig, Mountain Province (aka Mountain Violet Sticky Rice).

RICE, Inc.’s staff and the local municipal agriculture technicians collected the technical information needed for the applications and the applications were submitted to the Slow Food Foundation in Italy in January 2010.

Kalinga delegate Rowena Sawil (l) and Rowena Gonnay (r) inspect rice bundles with researcher Giselle Aris (center)

Kalinga delegates Rowena Sawil (l) and Rowena Gonnay (r) inspect rice bundles with researcher Giselle Aris (center)

As a result of the nominations, Vicky Garcia and 5 farmers have been selected as delegates to the Foundation’s Terra Madre conference in Turin, Italy this coming October! The Terra Madre is an international gathering of over 7,000 food producers, chefs, food writers, students and educators. Every two-year, delegates from all over the world gather to discus global food sustainability issues and celebrate the gastronomic traditions of the whole world.

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Stay tuned for updates!

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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A visit to the Ifugao Rice Terraces isn’t complete without a stop at Banaue Viewpoint. From the view deck, one can gaze out across the sculpted valley or hike down to a pencil point terrace that seemingly thrusts itself into the valley space.

Pictures of that beautiful terrace have graced many publications, including the “1000 Places to Visit Before You Die Calendar”, its page now prominently displayed on my refrigerator door.

This year, that iconic terrace became one more of the hundreds of terraces across the Cordillera region that has been left idle as farmers abandon their centuries-old culture of terrace farming. Was it damaged by last years’ typhoons, was there no irrigation water available because of the El Nino drought, or did the owners simply stopped farming?

I don’t know the answer. Although the sight of that abandon terrace fills me with a deep sense of loss and sadness it also fills me with determination.

Another terrace left abandoned

Another terrace left abandoned

The Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project is supporting farmers to continue rice terrace farming, to reclaim a part of their heritage and to revitalize their historic terraces. Through a Fair Trade partnership with Eighth Wonder, Inc., the project is helping farmers to sustainably grow and market their native heirloom rice.

We may not be able to save this particular terrace, but because of the Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project, hundreds of farmers throughout the Cordillera have found a new economic opportunity that builds on their indigenous knowledge and helps preserve the ecology and biodiversity of their historic landscape.

For more information on the Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project, please see our website at http://www.heirloomrice.com.

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