Negros Island Region

Farmers’ network seeks seed bank for traditional rice varieties in NIR

Reymund Titong

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Farmers’ network seeks seed bank for traditional rice varieties in NIR

TRADITIONAL RICE. Farm workers in Kabankalan City collect stalks of the Red64 rice variety cultivated by Central Philippines State University in February 2023.

Reymund Titong/Rappler

A farmers-led network points out that traditional rice varieties can endure both dry and wet seasons, unlike the hybrid seeds distributed by the government

NEGROS OCCIDENTAL, Philippines – A network of farmers’ groups called on the government on Friday, June 14, to help establish a seed bank for traditional rice varieties in the newly reestablished Negros Island Region (NIR).

Dennis Omison, speaking for the Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG) in the region, said there was an urgent need for the government to prioritize farmers’ welfare, especially given the impending challenges posed by climate change.

MASIPAG is a farmers-led network of non-governmental organizations and scientists dedicated to sustainable biodiversity management through farmers’ control of genetic and biological resources, agricultural production, and associated knowledge. It has been aiding 81 peoples’ and farmers’ associations in the Negros region.

Since the 1980s, the network has been leading development struggles, pursuing holistic development, community empowerment, and control over agricultural biodiversity to improve small farmers’ quality of life. MASIPAG has so far conserved 772 traditional rice varieties at their national backup farm in Nueva Ecija, and 1,385 MASIPAG and farmer-bred rice varieties.

Omison said government officials and farmers should collaborate to develop sustainable plans for improving the agricultural sector in the new region, rather than relying on temporary solutions.

The group has been advocating for establishing a seed bank for traditional rice, noting its benefits for farmers in the country’s agro-climatic conditions. 

He explained that traditional rice varieties can endure both dry and wet seasons, unlike the hybrid seeds distributed by the government, which require substantial water and pose challenges during dry periods, especially for rain-fed farms.

According to the Provincial Agriculturist’s Office, Negros Occidental suffered more than P302 million in damages across the rice, corn, and aquaculture sectors due to the El Nino phenomenon as of May 11. 

Omison said a seed bank would provide farmers easy access to resilient seeds, enabling them to plant crops regardless of the season.

Isidro Genol, a director of Kalibutan Society Incorporated, said the government should implement a sustainable plan, including regular participatory dialogues with farmers and education on preserving traditional rice varieties to show that it is genuinely committed to improving farmers’ quality of life. 

He also urged prioritizing land reform programs over financial aid, enabling marginalized communities to undertake large-scale rice planting and contribute to food security nationwide.

Omison appealed to the government to support organic crop production by providing equipment for massive production instead of promoting costly, chemical-reliant crops. – Rappler.com

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