Sustainable livelihoods through organic production of indigenous upland rice varieties

Proponent: Katilingban sang mga Agraryo Padulong sa Pag-uswag sang Iloilo Agrarian Reform Cooperative (KASAPPI-ARC)

Implementing partner: Center for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (CARRD)

Barangay Salngan was once inaccessible from the city centre of Passi. The challenges in accessing commercial inputs is one of the reasons why farmers from this locality practice organic farming. In the 1990s, a farmer had to pay PhP 200 to cart goods to and from the city, a price too large for the little amount they get selling their produce. A pioneer non-government organization (NGO) in advancing organic farming, Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG) trained these farmers to breed their own rice varieties in the early 90s. Because of this, they stopped relying on commercial varieties for food production.

However, the quality of their black and red rice was deemed inferior, and were processed in portable mills that produced broken, small grains, which the market found unacceptable. When Salngan was covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) in 2004, these farmers were assisted by Center for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (CARRD), a non-profit organization working for the implementation of CARP, and links farmers to available support services so they would have starting capital once they own their land. With support from the Japan Embassy and the Department of Agriculture (DA), CARRD facilitated the construction of a dedicated milling facility, and solar and mechanical dryers to allow farmers produce better grains and encourage them to stick with organic farming. Most community members volunteered their time to labour for the construction of the organic rice processing complex with no fee.

The passage of the Organic Agriculture Act of 2010 provided the community with an opportunity to scale up their production and explore mainstream market potentials. CARRD linked the communities to service providers who can finance the establishment of internal control systems for the organic rice value chain. These systems are crucial prerequisites of organic certification. Local farmers were trained to conduct field inspections. Each farmer-inspector monitors a number of farms and maintains a record of their farm plan. As the interest among farming communities grew, the pioneers from Salngan, with assistance from CARRD, organized KASAPPI-ARC and registered as a municipal cooperative. To-date, about 17 hectares of rice land was already certified by the Organic Certification Center of the Philippines (OCCP). About 34 hectares have already successfully complied with the requirements and are ready for certification.

As the first set of OCCP farms in Iloilo, keeping with organic standards opened opportunities for more partnership with LGUs and other entities. KASAPPI-ARC and CARRD lobbied with local government units for the building of a farm-to-market road to ease the transport of their products to the city center. DA built this road in 2015, and since then, the cooperative has supplied organic rice to mainstream markets.

These practices also did wonders to the environment. The soil doesn’t become acidic; rain run-off doesn’t pollute tributaries of Jalaur River, one of the most important bodies of water in the Western Visayas. Livelihoods have also improved: farmers’ cost of production has been maintained through the years, while their products have diversified. Aside from their black and red rice, they also earn from the sale of organic fertilizers, bio-pesticides, and organic seeds. The production of organic fertilizer has helped also in the management of wastes from Passi Sugar Central Inc. Mudpress and mill ashes are used as main ingredients. Currently, they are piloting the production of organic honey from bees cultivated in their farms.

In 2017, KASAPPI-ARC was recognized by DA for its contribution in the promotion of organic agriculture in Western Visayas.

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