A Traditional Upland Rice project in Maguindanao will be doubled to 40 hectare next season so as to enhance rice processing opportunities from the province’s One Town One Product (OTOP) rice delicacies like the Tinagtag.”

With the need to aid the province in economic progress as a means to achieve peace and order stability, the Community-based Participatory Research (CPAR) project of the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) is expanding its earlier 20-hectare program. The variety being popular used is the Red Dinorado.

Funding amounted to P600,000. The project will be replicated in an aim to raise more farmer leader-entrepreneurs from the program.

The Pigkalagan Farmers’ Association (PFA) and Ladia Farmers Association (LFA) have just doubled their rice yield to an average of 2.8 metric tons (MT) per hectare from 1.2 MT.

Although still far lower compared to the average yield in certified seeds and hybrids that bring Maguindanao’s average rice yield to three MT, the yield increase is already an achievement.

The upland farmers have never really been practicing proper fertilization according to Department of Agriculture and Fisheries-Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (DA-ARMM) Project Leader Tong A. Abas.

“We’re now using fertilizers (including the organic BIO-N) and pest control. These were among the most important practices that should be observed as suggested during our PRA (Participatory Rural Appraisal),” said Abas.

Also a basic need is organizing farmers.

The organized farmers now comprise PFA, which has 15 members, and LFA, with 20 members. Of these groups 22 are participants of the CPAR-Traditional Upland Rice-based Farming System (TURFS).

Even if rice is the single most valuable commodity in the country, many farmers remain needy of help in organization, said BAR Director Nicomedes P. Eleazar.

“Organizing farmers creates a lot synergy in rural projects. Many united farmers can achieve much more than many farmers working separately from each other can achieve,” Eleazar said.

BAR’s CPAR also conducts a PRA at the very start of a project. It is a requirement in CPAR, a program where farmers themselves are asked what they think they need exactly to become progressive.

BAR noted that upland farms are among the most neglected in the country. Aside from being distant from cities, difficult to reach for farm technicians, and the absence of irrigation, upland farms are far from farm to market roads, storage facilities, and bulk food processing facilities.

Seed Production

The upland rice program is now eyeing the more complicated seed production.

“There’s higher potential earning from seed production for good seeds. Our farmers our good, they can produce seeds,” said Abas.

There’s also a bigger demand for seeds. Rather than selling rice as food to customers, farmers usually keep a portion of their production to themselves for planting use. That can be a factor to seed shortage.

Maguindanao has the mountainous North Upi as the Little Baguio of Maguindanao that is ideal as seed production land. It is also a center for agricultural production where the Upi Agricultural School is found.

“It’s not necessary that a seed production land is in the plains, although a flat land is better. Farmers traditionally do zero tillage (no plowing). But what we do to improve the land (under TURFS) is to plow it,” said Abas.

Seed production program will potentially enable Maguindanao to sell seeds to other provinces.

Maguindanao presently imports from other provinces some rice need with 173,728 MT deficiency. This is 30 percent of consumption as of 2011, according to provincial data.

Milling and other farm constraints

The farmers may also have a separate project on the acquisition of a milling machine. Most upland farmers still practically use the laborious hand-driven pounding of rice. They use wooden pole as tool to separate rice grain from the stalks.

“Maybe if we become successful, we may have another proposal for milling,” he said.

A TURFS report named the lack of post-harvest (storage and drier) facilities as among the challenges in upland farming.

Others are high costs of farm inputs, lack of access to lending, inadequacy in technical know-how, lack of transportation to haul the harvest, weed threats, and weather-related problems like flash floods.

Flash floods add up to the fact that most farms are rainfed, therefore, are planted to rice only once a year. That’s instead of two times in irrigated lands.

To avoid seasons of flooding, TURFS is also determining a cropping calendar that will avoid heavy rains and flooding. Its distinct season due to climate change comes earlier. The dry season is from Sept. 16 to March 15, the wet from March 16 to Sept. 15

Native delicacies

A good local rice production may further enable Maguindanaoan families to produce the native delicacies which they are famous for.

tinagtagOne of this is the “Tinagtag,” a crunchy snack made of ground rice, sugar, and water. It is given as a gift in special occasions like Thanksgiving, similar to how “tikoys” are given away during Chinese New Year.

“It’s very much known in Maguindanao, and you can’t make it if you don’t use the native upland rice,” said Abas. The province’s indigenous rice is known for both its glutinous and non-glutinous forms and delicious taste.

Tinagtag and other rice-based delicacies Dudul, Kumukunsi, Panganan Sising, Putri Mandi, Tipas, Dadal Muntia, and Bulua are also the reasons why there is limited rice supply.

“During seed planting, we run out of seeds. You have to go house to house to buy seeds. People are not willing to sell their seeds because they turn them into native products from which they earn a lot.”

As these rice-based goods are good for what they are, these have become a One Town One Product (OTOP) in Sultan Kudarat, a Maguindanao town. OTOP products receive financing and marketing support through the Department of Trade and Industry. The brand Samra Maguindanao Delicacies is already distributed all over the country.

Among the makers of Tinagtag are urban poor women members of UP SAVINGS (Urban Poor Socialized Actions and Viable Initiatives that Net, Gain, and Serve) Multi-purpose Cooperative.

“Poor economic conditions and low productivity trap farmers in a poverty circle. It is very important that we find ways on how to improve farmers’ financial capability. Teaching and helping them, especially women, process products are good opportunity to explore in order to help farmers generate additional income,” according to the CPAR project.

CPAR-TURFS and DAF intervention

Of the 22 TURFS farmer-cooperators, 10 are from Brgy. Simuay and 12 from Brgy. Darapanan.

The farmers were provided with 40 kilos traditional upland rice seeds, 4.5 kilos green mongo, two bags complete fertilizer, one bag urea, six packs of Bio-N, one bottle herbicide, and one bottle pesticide.

A one hectare demonstration farm was established since the project in March 2009 in order to attract farmers’ interest on how to raise their yield.

On top of the CPAR-TURFS assistance, DAF also has a program for Maguindanao, not only the uplands but the entire province.

To assure farmers that there will be a buyer for their produce, DAF committed to buy these. But with the rice shortage, farmers refused to sell these to DAF as they needed them for home use and delicacy-making.

Yield should sustain growth from an average of 3.08 MT per hectare in 2011 to 3.28 MT, 2012; 3.57 MT, 2013; 3.63 MT, 2014; 3.79 MT, 2015; and 3.93 MT, 2016.

Maguindanao has a total rice area of 94,773 hectares consisting of 23,000 hectares of irrigated land and a comparably bigger 71,770 hectares of rainfed area.

There remains a potential irrigable area of 27,681 hectares. It is estimated that 18,127 farmers will be benefited with the development of irrigable areas. Among the beneficiary areas are Libris, Alip, Malmar, Lambayong, Pagris, Talayan, and Kabulnan.

Maguindanao actually suffered a rice production decline of 7.3 percent to 578,128 hectares in 2011. This is a result of the flash-flood causing typhoons Ceding, Dodoy, Egay and Frank.

Also the abolition of an earlier 50-50 subsidy scheme, where government paid for the cost of certified and hybrid seeds, caused the decrease.

The Maguindanao provincial government separately receives aid from DA and the Philippine Rice Research Institute.

From June to September this year, a P33.8 million is being allocated for various assistance including seed for climate change varieties. This includes submergence-tolerant varieties, drought-tolerant varieties, early maturing varieties, and certified seeds.

Other suggested priority assistance to Maguindanao farmers are support for organic fertilizer through composting facilities, construction of new and restoration of irrigation in coordination with ARMM, Regions 9, 10, and 12, provision for post harvest facilities and farm mechanization (warehouses), and farmers’ training.- Bureau AgriResearch