INTEGRATED RICE-DUCK FARMING: A GATHERING STORM
As dawn breaks, Mang DolfoValisteros, a 73-year old farmer from Barangay Maragang, Tigbao, Zamboanga del Sur wakes up to release his ducks in the paddy field. “Bless those ducks”, he says. Now they do all the work for him. No more weeding because they have eaten all the weeds. No more pesticide spraying because the ducks have feasted on all the harmful insects. No more fertilizer application since their dung has been deposited in the field.
Mang Dolfo started with 150 ducks. Now he has more than 400. His harvest of organic rice has increased to 5 tons per hectare. Expenses have dramatically gone down because he does need to spend for chemical pesticides and fertilizers. And the duck eggs bring in at least P 1,000.00 a day. Who says farmers cannot be rich?
The technology is about growing rice and ducks together in an enclosed irrigated paddy field. The paddling movement of the ducks and the dung from the duck fertilize the soil thereby eliminating the need for synthetic fertilizers. The ducks eat the weeds and harmful insects thus eliminating the need for pesticides. The technology is therefore an environmentally sound and economically efficient method of producing affordable organic rice and ducks for staple food.
From Zamboanga to more than 500 farms in Western, Northern and Eastern Mindanao the integrated rice-duck farming technology is being adapted by more and more farmers. “The acceptability among farmers is very high”, says Marilyn Bersales, Provincial Agriculture Officer of Zamboanga del Sur. “We cannot cope with the demand”, she adds.
Like a gathering storm, the adoption of PARFUND’s Integrated Rice-Duck technology is sweeping the countryside.
Last year, FPSDC and PARFUND organized a hands-on training on rice-duck farming for some interested FPSDC members coming from Samar, Leyte and Cotabato. The training was done in PARFUND’s Mindanao Rice-Duck center in Lagonglong, Misamis Oriental. According to Tetay Plantilla, General Manager of FPSDC, there are other members from Palawan and Isabela provinces who have signified interest in the technology. “We plan to assist them I adopting the technology in their areas”, says Tetay.
FPSDC’s incursion into supporting pioneering environmentally sound agricultural technologies is truly uncommon especially among financial institutions. Many would rather go into the “safer” and traditional fields like microfinance or savings and credit. So why is FPSDC venturing into rice-duck farming with PARFUND? Perhaps the uncertainty over the adverse effects of climate change and vulnerabilities associated with food security offers an opportunity to strategically position FPSDC as financial catalyst among institutions that are attempting to address food security and climate change mitigation and adaption. Few organizations have stepped into this new arena of battle. There is a potential niche here for FPSDC. As Jack Trout and Al Rise, Authors of the book “Positioning” have termed it “Differentiate or Die!”
COUNTRYSIDE “UNDER RENOVATION”
To change the rural landscape from poverty to that of prosperity, important reforms must be made. PARFUND started and continues to advocate agrarian reform. Land ownership and access to productive resources must be democratized. This is an imperative and non-negotiable component of rural development. That is why PARFUND through its Land Rights Campaign Advocacy Program works with Task Force Mapalad (TFM), another FPSDC member, in pursuing the effective implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program with Reforms (CARPER).
But owning land is not enough. Reforms must also be made in the agriculture sector. This task, however, is gargantuan and complicated task. PARFUND has chosen to focus and specialize in the development and massive propagation of the integrated rice-duck technology. The experience has shown that changes can be made no matter how small in the local communities. Working with small farmers, LGU’s, and other stakeholders in the organic rice and duck industries create beneficial results and positive changes in the agriculture sector. More importantly, the ground for evidence-based policy advocacy is being prepared and would soon be ready for national level advocacy.
ABOLISH THE CENTRAL OFFICE OF THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE (DA)
The sad state of affairs is that while agricultural development has been devolved to the LGU’s, the bulk of the funds remain under the use and control of the DA Central Office. This has allowed corrupt DA central office officials to suck the money out of the DA coffers and bleed the agriculture program dry. It will not be surprising if these funds are now being used for the election campaign. No wonder farmers complain that they rarely see the DA technicians because poor Mr. or Ms. DA technician does not have enough money for transportation to visit the farmers in their farms.
Former DA Secretary Yap has been quoted as saying that if he had his way, the DA should not be devoted and should be re-centralized. PARFUND disagrees. On the contrary, perhaps, it would be better to abolish the DA central and regional offices and transfer the resources to the LGUs.
It is therefore not surprising that DA Central office response to supporting the Integrated Rice-Duck Program or any sustainable program for that matter is stone cold. Doing so would kill the goose that lays the golden egg. Money can easily be made in rice importation, fertilizer, and pesticide purchases.
In the propagation of the rice-duck technology, PARFUND often encounters the dysfunction between central DA and local LGU agricultural governance. Local LGU technicians are most often left to themselves with little or no support from the central office. Only those LGUs whose chief executives have the vision, commitment, and capacity for agricultural governance are able to promote sustainable agriculture programs that benefit the farming constituency.
In 2009 PARFUND was given the Ryutario Hashimoto Silver Price Award by the Asia Pacific Forum on Environment and Development (APFED) for the implementation of the integrated rice-duck program. The award was received by Apollo Pacamalan, PARFUND Program Director, in Ishikawa, Japan. Apollo, who trained directly under the founder of the technology Mr. Takao Foruno, believes that the technology can address the problem of rice self-sufficiency in the country. “Our technology has been tested. Rice yields increase by as much as 30% after two to three croppings”, says Apollo.
FARMER BUYS NEW SPORTS UTILITY VEHICLE (SUV)
In Trento, Agusan del Sur where the rice-duck farms have expanded to more than 150 hectares, one farmer was able to buy a new 4-wheel drive out of the earnings of his rice-duck farm. Another was able to buy a farm machine just from the sales of duck eggs for balut. A woman rice-duck practitioner narrates how she has been able to send her two children to nursing schools because of her savings from the non-purchase of chemicals. The testimonies of farmers who have benefitted from the technology continue to grow.
Trento Mayor Irenea Hitgano, the driving force behind the organic farming movement in Trento, has also benefitted from the rice-duck technology. She says that before the rice-duck technology came, there were plenty of poor people lining up outside the house to ask for money and help. Now she believes the rice-duck adaption in her municipality has made farmers prosperous and the income has spurred the development of other enterprises and businesses in the town. “Now,” Mayor Hitgano says, “the lines of people are gone.”
PARFUND sees itself as an “Industry Integrator” in the organic rice and duck industries. This means that interventions go beyond technology dissemination. The role requires PARFUND to tap different institutions from private sectors to fill the gaps in various areas of the industry.
For the duck industry, for instance, this would mean harnessing entrepreneurs or business to establish breeding farms
and hatcheries to supply ducklings to rice-duck adopters, soliciting the assistance of the academic institutions such as CARAGA State University (CSU) for research and development of energy efficient solar powered incubators, tapping microfinance institutions to provide credit to farmer adopters, and linking with private sector groups for the marketing of duck eggs and meat. For the organic rice industry, PARFUND is currently in talks with the Upland Marketing Foundation, Inc. (UMFI), another FPSDC member for possible joint venture arrangements on the marketing organic rice.
The blessings of the technology must be shared. PARFUND is willing to assist organizations, most especially members of FPSDC, which are interested in adopting and propagating the rice-duck technology in their areas. Just call the PARFUND Hotline at 02-4336999 (Manila office), 088-8511283 (Cagayan de Oro office), or 0917-8214833.