Monday, September 16, 2013


Last Tuesday, I had the opportunity to watch the harvesting of the first SRI pilot plot for the Office of Development of EDS (Episcopal Diocese of Santiago). What is SRI? It stands for Systems Rice Intensification. Filipinos first developed it but farmers are reluctant to pick up the process here The developers moved it to India where it has been wildly successful. Basically, SRI allows for more yields with less seeds.

As they say, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But that is exactly what the Development Office is trying to do in the Diocese of Santiago. They are hoping by planting their own small, pilot plots that they will show congregation members, farmers, that SRI can help them produce more rice at a lesser price. Therefore, it provides higher rewards.

With the harvesting of last Tuesday’s plot, it proved just that. The Development Office’s plot yielded three bags and two cans on 266 square meters. With a comparison of the plot next door, not planting SRI, it calculated to an increase of 54%. And that was with 23% of the palay being empty of grains due to typhoon wind damage during a crucial part of growing.

SRI grows taller than normal rice so Charlotte is almost lost within it.

Since rice is a staple here in the Philippines and the region I’m living in, Isabela, is the second highest producer of rice in the country, I jumped at the opportunity to learn how rice goes from farm to table. Now, I didn’t go as far as jumping into the rice patties to cut down the palay myself. I simply stood on the sidelines and documented, but learned a great deal. However, I still don’t know everything so don’t quote me on the process.

Once the stalk is ready to be harvested, the top half with the palay, which holds the rice grain, gets chopped off. It’s incredible to watch these guys work with such speed. They have a specific curved, serrated knife. They grab a handful of stalks, cut and throw it into a pile. I thought about giving it a try until Father Clearance showed me his scar from almost slicing his pinky in half with one. After it’s all cut down, they throw it into a big pile to be threshed. Unfortunately, I left before the thresher arrived, but it separates the palay from plant. Next, the palay has to be dried.

Father Clearance helping out with the harvest.
They made quick work of chopping down the stalks.
Palay drying is actually a big issue with the farming community. It must be dried out in the sun preferably on hot pavement. Most farmers don’t have access to palay drying pavement so they spread it out onto the road where it can be run over by cars or eaten by birds. Actually, one of the community development projects of the Diocese is creating drying pavements for communities to use.

Palay drying in the middle of the road.
You can't help running over the palay.
A majority of farmers sell palay to traders instead of milling rice themselves. Currently, the price of one kilo is 17 pesos, which is a little higher than normal. I found out that for a good harvest a farmer who owns the land has an income of around PHP35,000 per hectare. And you have two harvests per year. Divide PHP70,000 by 12 months and that’s PHP5,833 a month. In the Philippines, one needs a least PHP7,200 to be above the poverty line. To survive, one needs two to three hectares of land. However, many don’t own two to three hectares.

Getting it ready for the thresher. 

That’s the hope of SRI. That is with owning only one hectare, you can produce more palay per hectare and increase your yield and income. And the Development Office’s hope is if the congregation is producing more income, it will bring them out of poverty but also allow them to contribute a little more to the church. It’s a win-win situation all around.

However as I said, this was only the first pilot plot to be harvested but so far the results are as hoped. The next step is to convince farmers to adopt the new seed and a way of growing rice to benefit all.

I can't tell you why, but I'm obsessed with the Water Bufflo here.

Thanks for reading!

No comments:

Post a Comment