EDITORIAL| Heirloom rice

IN MARILOG district, women of the Matigsalog tribe have been the seed keepers of rice, passing the traditional knowledge from generation to generation. This indigenous practice has helped them keep food on the table in whatever changes in weather the community encounters. If there is drought, flooding or extreme weather changes, they claim to have varieties of upland rice that can sustain them through such events.

Last week, during the conference “Responsible Business Forum on Food and Agriculture” in Hanoi, Vietnam, rice was one of the major products discussed as this is the most dominant cereal crop in most countries of the world.

Under the Food Staples Sufficiency Program of the Department of Agriculture, heirloom rice is now being studied. With support from the International Rice Research Institute, the project aims to raise “the productivity of and enrich the legacy of heirloom or traditional rice through empowered indigenous communities in unfavorable rice-based ecosystems.”

The DA believes that the demand is high for these varieties in both local and international markets. The department has already identified regions where these varieties are grown, including Arakan Valley and in Lake Sebu in South Cotabato.

It may not be too easy for the indigenous people who have practiced traditional farming methods and have kept the rice varieties as treasures in their community to just hand in their indigenous knowledge. For the women in Gumalang, Marilog, planting a certain variety of rice is not only for daily food consumption but for medicinal purposes, as well.

The heirloom rice project, if it is to succeed and benefit the indigenous communities, must encourage their involvement and participation not only in production but important stages of development.

Posted in Opinion