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PIA Press Release

Bilar goes back to traditional rice

by Rey Anthony Chiu

Tagbilaran City (19 October) -- TAKING conservation a step further, farmers of Bilar, Bohol have institutionalized its rice tradition by crafting the first ever Bilar Rice Heritage by legislative act in a move to go back to the basics and protect its heritage.

The Rice Festival is an opportunity for our farmers to show off and share their experiences, skills and materials, explains Jean Yasol of Searice, a non government organization building capacities of farmers here. Searice empower, teach and assist farmers in seed selection and in developing new varieties Yasol explained.

The step also grounds the provincial stand opposing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and the proliferation of modern rice varieties that appear to be productive but bears on the farmer's pockets and the environment.

During a Farmer's Rights Forum expounding on the sustainable community based initiatives as expressions of farmers' rights, Visayas and Mindanao farmers gathered at the MetroCenter Hotel here October 18 to listen to best practices in sustainable agriculture in support of pro-environment farming and nature based tourism.

A sharing of best practices from South Cotabato and Bohol along with the Bhutan experience with Agriculture Minister Lyonpo Sangay Ngedup highlighted the forum.

For Bohol, the best practice was with Bilar's going back to the basics, literally by addressing the problem of vanishing rice cultivation tradition and the traditional rice's uncultivated potential for food security.

Bilar farmers, with technical help from Searice, harnessed community-based initiatives sustaining local rice culture and tradition and entered the records when it passed October 9 the ordinance protecting the Bilar rice and its tradition.

Bilar farmer, Ruperta Mangaya-ay said her family has been into preserving the traditional Bilar rice varieties and have opted for it over the much-hyped modern rice varieties. The decision came after realizing that the sturdy and resistant local varieties stand a better chance of surviving and often end up giving more savings to the farmers.

In her sharing Mangaya-ay told media that she used to plant scientific rice and spends between P10T to P11T in the entire process.

Now, with a traditional rice variety she and the community along with Searice and Central Visayas State College of Agriculture Forestry and Technology developed, coupled with organic farming technology, she only spends as much as P5T.

"Although modern rice varieties produce greater yields, but organic rice is heavier, better tasting, husks better and is more filling," Mangaya-ay said.

The traditional rice that we grow fits into our organic farm set-up, and knowing that organic fertilizer from natural sources is more environment-friendly, the difference for the environment pays, she added. (PIA) [top]

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