Despite the World Bank’s estimate that the Philippines has 18.2-percent arable land, well above the global average of 10.6 percent and more than adequate annual rainfall, the country remains dependent on rice imports.
Like most Asian countries, 90 percent of domestic rice comes from smallholder farmers. The good news is that through the efforts of the government, in partnership with companies such as Bayer Philippines, Filipino farmers are gradually shifting to hybrid seeds and adopting the modern methods needed to maximize their potential.
One success story is that of Myrna Perez-Villa. Using hybrid seeds and techniques she learned by attending various training courses on updated farming methods, Perez-Villa, a rice farmer from Bago City, Negros Occidental, has consistently been able to get yields of 180 eighty cavans of rice per hectare.
In 2004, using Bayer’s hybrid variety Arize Bigante Plus, Perez-Villa instructed her farmers to ground this seed on one hectare of land through broadcast or direct seeding. She also received technical support from field technicians.
“People in our community laughed at me. They said this method would never work because of the huge planting distance; they were skeptical that this would produce a good plant,” recalled Perez-Villa.
Going against the status quo, Perez-Villa pressed on with crop protection products and nutrients. Come harvest time, her one-hectare hybrid rice farm produced 180 cavans, far more than the typical 80 cavans that inbred seeds and traditional methods yield on the average: “People were suddenly taking pictures in my rice farm. They could not believe it. I couldn’t too, but I am happy with the results,” expressed Perez-Villa.
Following her success, in March 2009, Perez-Villa founded the Newton-Camingawan-Para Farmers’ Association. NECAPA gave farmers the platform to reach out to the government by seeking support on seeds, farm inputs and most importantly, mechanization.
Starting with only 30 members, she said: “It was very difficult to convince farmers initially, I had to really take time to talk to them and give motivation. I told them they need to unite to have a solid voice to speak as one to the government”.
Membership grew and to date, they have 145 active member-farmers. Through NECAPA, Barangay Taloc was selected as the pilot beneficiary of the Department of Agriculture’s Farm Mechanization Program that aims to increase farmer’s productivity and efficiency through machines.
The program is a step towards attaining rice self-sufficiency within the province. On the 200 hectares of rice model farms, 80 percent grounded Arize Bigante-Plus hybrid seeds. Combined with the use of a mechanical transplanter and combine harvester, each hectare produced a consistent average yield of more than 180 cavans.
In the coming season, NECAPA will not only be a recipient of seeds, inputs and mechanization support but will also expand to become a service provider to nearby farm communities with their experience from the previous season.
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