27 May On site inspection by OCCP
An on-site inspection of the terrace that will be certified as organic for growing native heirloom rice took place May 18-22 in the Cordillera. The inspection and certification process is being done under the auspices of the Organic Certification Center of the Philippines (OCCP) and is coordinated by RICE, Inc. This is the next step in the organic certification process for the four pilot project areas of the Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project. The office of the National Irrigation Administration-Cordillera Region (NIA-CAR) provided transportation for the inspection team as they traveled through four mountain provinces in the Cordillera. Their continuing support for the project’s organic and sustainable initiative is a testament to NIA-CAR’s concern for the historic terraces and their watershed areas.
First stop was the office of Executive Director Cesar Rodriguez, Department of Agriculture, Cordillera Region (DA-RFU) in Baguio City. Director Rodriguez has extensive experience and a deep understanding of the traditional farming practices of the high-elevation terraces. There was a good discussion with the OCCP team regarding the farmers’ understanding of organic agriculture. Director Rodriguez gave his commitment for continued project support.
Site visits and meetings were held in Bauko and Barlig, Mountain Province; Banaue and Hingyon, Ifugao; and Lubuagan and Tabuk, Kalinga. Severe road conditions prevented on-site visits to the villages of Uma, Lubuagan and Balatoc, Pasil, although the inspectors were able to interview Lubuagan farmers in the Poblacion and Dagoy areas. Vice Mayor Dickpus was on hand for the meeting and helped in translating some the agricultural practices to the OCCP inspectors. They were also able to interview Pasil area farmers in Tabuk.
Final courtesy calls were made in Tabuk with the incoming Regional Director for NIA-CAR, Engr John Socalo and at the Provincial Agriculture Office-Kalinga.
The team also looked at the proposed site for the new Kalinga Farmers’ Center, which will house the new processing equipment.
Overall, the comments/recommendations for the entire visit included:
1. There is a need to conduct more soil nutrient analysis.
2. Farmers must start keeping farm practices records. (Accurate records can be incorporated into the next inspectors training);
3. Continuing organic agriculture workshops are needed so that farmers can become more familiar with all aspects of the organic standards;
4. Long-term documentation of production area/yield of participating farmers should be collected.
The eventual organic certification of the rice terraces is part of the on-going effort of the Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project to build on the traditional sustainable farming practices of the Cordillera. By learning improved sustainable and organic methods, the farmers can increase the productivity of the terraces through improved soil fertility, irrigation management and more efficient post-harvest methods.