18 Sep Revitalization of the NIA Farmer Training Center, Bontoc
When we made a preliminary inspection of the processing site in Bontoc, Mountain Province last month, it was apparent that the Farmer Training Center in the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) complex had fallen to the status of storage area for assorted engine parts, wood materials and papers. The electrical wiring had long since disappeared…but it was a solid building with a good roof and it certainly had potential!
The processing machines were trucked into Mountain Province over the Banaue-Bontoc road by our fearless installers from PhilRice and JHT MicroEnterprises. The drive is a white-knuckle ride over a road that clings to the mountain sides; over the edge, it is literally hundreds of feet to the river below.
The farmers in Mountain Province are coordinated by NIA, with particularly outstanding LGU support in the municipalities of Balig, Natonin and Sadanga. Each municipality’s farmers worked on task despite innumerable breakdowns and electrical brown outs. Housed at the NIA complex during the Operators Training Workshop and processing, the farmers had the opportunity learn the many aspects of the processing in a supportive atmosphere.
The official signing of the Memorandum of Agreement concerning the turnover of the machines to the heirloom farmers of the Cordillera was signed at the unveiling in Bontoc on August 25, 2009. Mountain Province Governor Maximo Dalog, Department of Agriculture Regional Director Cesar Rodriguez, NIA Regional Director Abraham Akilit and numerous municipal officials were on hand for the MOA signing and machine turnover. A special award plaque was given to Director Rodriguez by Vicky Garcia of RICE, Inc. for his unwavering support of the project.
By processing their own rice, the farmers are expanding their understanding of the importance of improved farming practices in the field and quality standards for selecting and drying the grain; the result is a quality product for sale or personal use. Each sack of palay (threshed rice) was pre-inspected in the villages for correct variety type, uniform quality of grain and moisture content after drying. The quality of the palay put into the processing machines has a direct connection to the recovery rate of the finished rice. Despite all the brownouts and mechanical breakdowns, it was a successful processing. We look forward to the farmers stepping up to the challenge of using these machines for the basis of a successful cooperative enterprise.