MALATE, Manila – “We learned a lot about farming as a business. We now know that small farmers can be entrepreneurs in their own farms, no matter how big or small the area is,” local farmer technician Nelia Sombiro from Oton, Iloilo said.
Sombiro had this to say about her experience as part of the Better Rice Initiative Asia-Fostering Agriculture and Rice Marketing by improved Education and Rural advisory Services (BRIA-FARMERS) during the project’s culminating activity, also dubbed as the National Learning Event.
“Through BRIA and also the Central Philippine University, we were able to have market linkages with institutional buyers. We’ve also found out that we can earn more from marketing rice by-products to buyers instead of the usual trading of palay,” Sombiro said.
Sombiro was among the farmers representing the three BRIA-FARMERS project sites, namely, Regions III, VI, and VIII. Aside from improved access to market, the other two partner farmers, who also spoke at the event, attested to how the project improved their access to extension services that led to better crop management and yield increase.
Agricultural extension workers from the concerned local government units (LGUs) were also part of the panel discussion on the learning experiences on the implementation of BRIA-FARMERS in the Philippines. Amante Lagunay, Jr. from Ma. Aurora, Aurora shared how the project brought them deeper understanding on how agriculture can be enhanced by good partnership and how it became a more effective tool in the improvement of learning and organization of farmers.
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ) Officer-in-Charge (OIC) Peter Hauschnik also talked about the project as a means for their organization to build bridges between different sectors in public, private, and civil sectors, help foster learning, and “create some new ways of doing things.”
He stressed that BRIA-FARMERS supports the peace and development efforts of the GIZ in the Philippines, saying that conflict and difficulties also arise when there is lack of opportunities, which is not limited to conflict areas in Mindanao. He also commended the people from the LGUs who have to implement several and different national policies which he said is not an easy task.
BRIA-FARMERS aims to contribute to the goals of the Department of Agriculture (DA) on ensuring food availability and affordability for all. This is through improving the market position of farmers in the rice value chains as well as increasing their yield and income through better rice production, market linkage, and policy dialogue and knowledge management.
The project started in 2013 and officially rolled out activities in 2015. This is in collaboration among the DA, Agricultural Training Institute (ATI), Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), and German Development Cooperation through the GIZ. Private companies were also part of this effort, particularly Bayer and Yara Fertilizers Philippines, Incorporated.
Sombiro further spoke of how this collaboration strengthened support mechanisms for farmers from the government and private sector, “They are building bridges for us, farmers, with buyers and this lessens the difficulties for us.”
Following the panel discussion was the ceremonial turnover of the knowledge products generated from the project to DA and ATI officials led by Undersecretary for Operations Ariel Cayanan and OIC Director Luz Taposok, respectively. USec. Cayanan stressed the importance these products, which include training modules, in the institutionalization of learning.
PhilRice Board of Trustees Secretary Constante Briones also spoke at the event on behalf of Executive Director Sailila Abdula, saying how their participation in the project has allowed them to expand their reach in diffusing rice production technologies and raising the quality of rice and the lives of farmers.
The National Learning Event between the partner farmers and officials from implementing government agencies, private groups, and other partner organizations of the BRIA-FARMERS project was held on October 26 at the New World Manila Bay Hotel in this city.