A seed shared goes a long way

The story of Diego Delfin of New Pangasinan, Isulan, Sultan Kudarat

He shook his head, apparently in disbelief. Is he really the man we were referring to?

 

“There might have been some mistake,” he said.

 

But he was exactly who we were looking for—Diego P. Delfin—the farmer who developed a variety that has brought great impact to several communities across the country.

 

A 53-year-old farmer from Old Pangasinan, Isulan, Sultan Kudarat, a town in Southern Philippines, Mr. Delfin began working on his family’s farmland along with his father when he graduated from high school at 17 years old. In 2007, he joined a season-long training on participatory plant breeding (PPB) sponsored by SEARICE and its partner organizations, hoping to learn even just a fraction of what college graduates would in four years.

 

And learn he did as he continued to painstakingly conduct experiments on seeds that would bear the best qualities that a farmer aspires for. He bred a farmer’s variety, M3, with a traditional variety, B3. Both were resistant to pests and high yielding with the latter having an added trait of being aromatic. His handiwork produced the M3B3 which was adapted by a group of farmers from different villages in Calasiao, Pangasinan, a province in Northern Philippines.  

 

We found out from him how the M3B3 reached Pangasinan. In 2009, when the line was finally stable, he gave some seeds to CONSERVE or the Community-based Native Seeds Research Center to be shared with other farmers. CONSERVE serves as a repository of traditional and farmer developed plant genetic resources or seeds. It collects and distributes to farmers different seed varieties that may be worth trying in their fields.

 

The M3B3 was tested by farmers who were also students of farmer field schools in Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and plant breeding. These farmers organized themselves into the Aliguas Dumaralos en Buenlag (ADB) or Progressive Farmers of Buenlag.

 

In 2011, they convinced several makers of a native rice cake famously known as Puto Calasiao, to try using the M3B3 as the main ingredient for the delicacy. The result was a better Puto Calasiao as the farmer-bred variety bore consistency, texture, and taste ideal for the product that is the main propeller of the town’s economy. This outcome validated the fact that farmers can perform breeding activities and it strengthened their resolve to develop more varieties that are most appropriate and responsive to their needs. The variety which was initially referred to as ADB rice is now called the Calasiao rice, having been recognized by the municipal government as a farmers’ variety. It is the farmers’ wish that the province make the name official.   

 

When our news finally sunk in, Mr. Delfin humbly spoke of simply expanding his plans. Aside from the rice-duck farm in the offing, he vowed to conduct more plant breeding activities, not for the reward or recognition but to help other farmers. “I am glad my efforts did not go to waste,” he said, smiling.

 

His efforts definitely did not go to waste for he developed a precious resource that, if well cared for, will be around for generations to come. Indeed, when a good seed benefits others beyond time, a farmer lives forever.

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Southeast Asia Regional Initiatives for Community Empowerment

 

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Photos are contributed by SEARICE staff and partner organizations and government agencies.