The centuries-old Cordillera Rice Terraces, acclaimed as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, is now the focus of a rehabilitation and development program which is supported by the Dept. of Agriculture.

In a recent visit to Banaue, Ifugao Province, I approved the request of Gov. Pedro Mayam-o for the establishment of the Ifugao Rice Terraces Development Management Council and committed an initial funding of P1-M for the operations of the newly-formed council.

The organisation of the council, which aims to repair damaged dikes, rehabilitate abandoned paddies, increase productivity of the heirloom rice and promote the organic Tinawon rice worldwide, was perhaps the highlight of the third visit I made to the beautiful province of Ifugao on Aug. 31.

The IRTDMC which will be spearheaded by the local government units and supported by the DA, the Dept. of Tourism and the Dept. of the Environment and Natural Resources will come up with a comprehensive program to develop the rice terraces.

By 2018, I hope to be able to include in the DA's budget a huge amount to realise the dreams of the Cordillerans for the return of the iconic Rice Terraces to their old grandeur and improve the lives of the farmers who have kept the centuries-old tradition of planting organic rice varieties passed on for generations.

I intend to propose a P1-B fund for the repair, rehabilitation and development of the rice terraces.

During the visit, the DA, through regional director Lorenzo Caranguian, also turned over to the Ifugao farmers P46-M worth of equipment.

Additional equipment were also committed to the municipalities who sought support from the DA, including a mini-cultivator which could be carried by two people to be used in cultivating the paddies in the rice terraces.

For ages, the Cordillera rice terraces farmers used their feet to prepare the paddies for planting. Carabaos were not used in plowing the fields because the animals' hoofs could destroy the rice terraces.

One hundred heads of Holstein Dairy Cattle will also be distributed to the Heirloom Rice Farmers to provide them with additional sources of income since they harvest only once a year.

Under the Dairy Program, the milk produced by the Heirloom Rice Farmers will be used in a milk-feeding program in their own communities thus opening a ready market for their produce.

Using organic feeds available in the area, the program is also expected to produce organic fertilisers to be used in the rice terraces to increase the productivity of the farmers from the current 2.5-metric tons per hectare to at least 3.5 metric tons.

The Heirloom Rice, which has been classified as a High Value Crop, is now being bought for P80 per kilo and sold in the market for as much as P120 per kilo.

While the demand is great, the supply of the Heirloom Rice is limited.

With the current focus of government on the Heirloom Rice production, it is expected that Cordillera Rice Terraces farmers will get more blessings by simply embracing a farming tradition passed on from one generation to another for centuries now.

Previous Post Next Post