First harvest from pilot Subanon rice terraces project


TVIRD helps bring famed Ifugao agro-tech to Mindanao IPs

(Story by Rene Patangan, TVIRD Public Affairs Officer)

Subanon Fernandez Anda’s face lit up when he saw us emerge from the bushes and clump of trees and into the clearing. He eagerly welcomed us to his hut and waited for us to catch our breaths after an hour’s trek to the steep and rugged mountains of Sitio Gulangan. He was thrilled to tell us his story.

Fernandez Anda and daughter with rice harvested from their own terraces and milled in their own backyard.

Our group was headed by Yulo Perez, TVIRD vice president for Philippine Operations; and Thess Limpin, TVIRD manager for Community Relations and Development Office (CReDO). We were joined by CReDO Information Officer Jose “Pepe” Dagala, and Social Development Consultant German Romano.

Barely three months since our last visit to this piece of land in the Subanon ancestral domain in Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte, Anda’s farm is now a picture of abundance. What used to be muddy earth is now covered with yellow-green rice stalks, with their golden grains standing out under the blazing sun. The model rice terraces project is a success.

Anda, 51, is the first beneficiary of the Farmer-Instructor Technician (FIT) program, a livelihood-through-agroforestry component of the Social Development and Management Plan for the indigenous people (IP) hosts of TVI Resource Development Philippines, Inc. (TVIRD). The company has, since mid-2004, been operating a gold and silver mine in Sitio Canatuan, also in Siocon, and will begin producing copper and zinc in mid-2008.

The first rice terraces in the mountains of Zamboanga Peninsula, shown here ready to be harvested.

If the success of Anda’s farm were to be a gauge, then it is safe to say that the once semi-nomadic Subanons, who were used to the traditional – and destructive – slash-and-burn farming method, can easily adopt the irrigated multi-cropping scheme using the rice terraces farming technology – the same technology applied by generations of Ifugao IPs in the mountainous terrains of Northern Philippines.

“Dako kaayo akong kalipay nga nahimong magmalampuson kining akong uma gamit ang teknolohiya nga gitudlo kanako sa TVI(RD). Dili na gayud kami kinahanglang magbalhin-balhin pa sanglit mahimo kaming magtanum ug mag-ani makatulo matag tuig dinhi lamang sa mao ra gihapong umahan ug igo ra usab ang abot nga pangkunsumo hangtud sa sunod ani (I am extremely pleased that my farm is successful using the technology that TVIRD had taught me. We do not need to move from one place to another anymore since we can plant and harvest three times a year in the same paddies; and the yield is enough until the next harvest),” said Anda as our group took our places to rest under a makeshift shade made of tarpaulin scraps.

Golden rice stalks from a mountain of gold.

Anda (far right) poses, his rice terraces on the background, with TVIRD personnel: (from left) CReDO Information Officer Jose Dagala, CReDO Canatuan Manager Thess Limpin, and Vice President for Philippine Operations Yulo Perez.

“Labaw sa tanan, malipayon usab ako tungod kay interesado ug ganahan usab mosuhid ang akong mga kauban ug kadugong Subano niining pamaagi sa panguma. Subay sa programa, komitado ako nga itudlo usab kanila ang akong nabatonan nga kahibalo (More than anything, I am happy because my fellow Subanons are interested and would like to follow the farming techniques that I used here. Under the program, I am committed to teach and transfer to them the skills I have learned),” Anda continued. We began helping ourselves with the sweet butong (young coconut) juice and meat that Anda had offered us.

Initial plotting and forming of the second rice terraces project have actually begun on a land owned by Rene Tii, another Subanon holder of the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title, adjacent to Anda’s plot.

Unable to contain his pride for his feat, Anda shared his plans with us: “Plano nako nga palapdan ug padak-an pa ang akong uma para sa sunod nga tanum aron makabaligya na sa abot niini. Sa pagkakaron, igo lamang ang abot niini para makaon sa akong pamilya sanglit testing pa lamang kini (I plan to expand my farm for the next planting season so I would be able to sell its produce. For now, the harvest would just be enough to feed my family since it is still in the trial stage).”

Formerly used to swidden farming, Anda, like most Subanons, would always worry every harvest time. The yield was usually scant and could not be sustained until the next harvest. Under this method, they could harvest rice only once a year.

“Pinaagi niining teknolohiya, ako masaligon nga dili magutman ang akong pamilya ug makabaligya pa sa abot sa mosunod nga mga pag-ani (Through this technology, I am assured that my family will not go hungry and could even sell my produce in the succeeding harvests),” Anda stressed.

After a few more minutes of rest, our group followed Anda’s lead as he descended to the lower portion of the rice terraces. It’s harvest time.

This miner tries his hands on farming. Perez helps in the first harvest.