2016 Rice Achievers Awards Boosts Farmers' Morale

PATAFIA president Daniel Seville thanks the DA family and the local government for their support.

PASAY CITY, Metro Manila—The recently held 2016 Rice Achievers Awards ended on a positive note as members of the winning associations expressed stronger commitment to contribute to the rice self-sufficiency efforts in the country.

“We never thought that we’d be able to come here in Manila [to receive an award]. All we ever wanted was to have access to irrigation for our farms and we strived hard to maintain cooperation within our association. We would then like to thank the Rice Achievers Awards as it boosted our morale,” Pagsabangan Tagum Farmers Irrigators’ Association, Inc. (PATAFIA) president Daniel Seville said in Filipino. This was his message after he and his co-members received the award for being one of the Outstanding Irrigators’ Associations.

Organized in 2008, PATAFIA is servicing an area of 125 hectares in Barangay Pagsabangan, Tagum City in Davao del Norte. Seville shared that when they started out, they went to the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) for assistance. Through the Technical Cooperation Project II of NIA and the Japan International Cooperation Agency, 93 farmer-members of PATAFIA underwent training activities, conferences, and workshops to enhance their performing capacities on irrigation use and management.

“We saw where we lacked at and our perspectives slowly changed when it came to running the association. Thank you to the Department of Agriculture (DA) for their interventions including the provision of farm machinery, post-harvest equipment, school-on-the-air, and training programs,” he said. He also talked about some of the hardships they experienced including the devastation of typhoon Pablo (international codename Bopha) and how the assistance they received from various entities helped them recover,

“We thank NIA, the Bureau of Water and Soils Management, and the local government for your support. You all gave us the chance to experience victory. Tagumpay, Tagum!” Aside from PATAFIA, the 2016 Outstanding Irrigators’ Associations are the Villa Fuerte, Incorporated in San Mateo, Isabela; Batinao Cabacungan Sto. Niño Irrigators Farmers Association, Incorporated in New Bataan, Compostela Valley; and Hingatungan Irrigators’ Association, Incorporated in Silago, Southern Leyte.

On the other hand, the Tanggal Small Impounding Dam Association, Incorporated in Tabuk City, Kalinga; San Jose Lamak Irrigators Association in Mabini, Bohol; and Hinapoyan Farmers Cooperative in Carmen, Surigao del Sur bagged the award for Outstanding Small Water Impounding System Association (SWISA). The four Outstanding Irrigators’ Associations and three Outstanding SWISAs each received a trophy and Php1 million and Php 500,000 cash prize, respectively.

Seven top rice-producing provinces were also recognized and received a trophy and Php 4 million cash prizes. They are La Union, Pangasinan, Nueva Vizcaya, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Lanao del Norte, and Compostela Valley. Fifteen municipal and city local government units (LGUs) with remarkable performance were also awarded with a trophy and Php 1 million cash prize. They are Luna, Apayao; Solsona, Ilocos Norte; Santiago City, Isabela; Victoria, Tarlac; Pila, Laguna; Paluan, Occidental Mindoro; Ligao City, Albay; Talibon, Bohol; Hinundayan ,Southern Leyte; Bayog, Zamboanga del Sur; Lala, Lanao del Norte; Hagonoy, Davao del Sur; Lambayong, Sultan Kudarat; Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur; and Valladolid, Negros Occidental.
Special awards also went to selected provinces, irrigators’ associations, and SWISAs.

Senator Cynthia Villar, who also heads the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, graced the event and called on all efforts from both the government and the private sector to ensure rice self-sufficiency in the years ahead. “It is predicted that, in 2050, the world’s population will increase to nine billion. If we are not able to maintain our small family farms, the world will go hungry. We need to take care of our small farms so that the farmers’ children will continue their work, otherwise our children and grandchildren will have no food to eat,” she remarked.

Sen. Villar also emphasized the need to increase mechanization in rice farming to increase productivity, enhance efficiency, and improve competency which will eventually curb rice smuggling in the country. She likewise shared her plan of legislating the establishment of farm schools in every town nationwide. “Our farmers are small-scale businessmen, so they need to learn about technology, financial literacy, business sense, and the ability to access cheap credit. This year, I will legislate that Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) will allot 30 percent of their budget to finance the operation of all the farm schools in the Philippines,” she stated. Sen. Villar has also recently sponsored Senate Bill 1465: Free Irrigation Service to Small Farmers where small farmers—famers whose combined farm holdings cover an area of not more than five hectares—will be exempted from the payment of irrigation services fee from NIA and communal irrigation systems.

DA officials were likewise present to hand out the awards, namely, Undersecretary for Policy and Planning Segfredo Serrano, Undersecretary for Operations Ariel Cayanan, and Undersecretary for Special Concerns Ranibai Dilangalen.

In his closing remarks, Cayanan challenged all the winners to share their best practices as this will give way to making the task of feeding millions of people a possibility. The Rice Achievers Awards, an annual search that started in 2011, aims to capture the impact of the DA’s rice production interventions towards achieving rice self-sufficiency. The awardees were chosen based on their increased rice harvest and average yield per hectare over 2016 levels, amount of budget devoted to rice projects and initiatives, number of farmer beneficiaries, and degree of quality seed utilization, among others.

Around 500 individuals were present at the awarding ceremony held at the Philippine International Convention Center in this city last May 23, 2017. The Agricultural Training Institute, together with the DA National Rice Program and Field Operations Services, served as the national secretariat for this year’s event.