9 Ways Farmers Benefited from SEARICE Programs
Sherma E Benosa
For SEARICE, knowing that program implementation went well based on quantifiable outcomes is one thing, and being informed by the participants just how much they have benefited from the program is another.
To find out if it is impacting the lives of its community partners, SEARICE, together with its partner institutions, conducted a community self-assessment (CSA) in six partner countries, namely: Bhutan, Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.
The results are encouraging: SEARICE did impact the lives not only of its direct partners, but also its partners’ communities in ways more than one.
1. Enhanced their Knowledge and Skills
Through the farmer field schools (FFS) implemented across the project sites, the farmer-participants became adept at seed conservation and crop development. At the end of the project, the farmer participants are able to systematize their breeding efforts while conserving precious and valuable plant genetic resources. Some of the farmers even became trainors. These farmer trainors willingly shared the knowledge they gained from the program with the other farmers in their communities.
2. Promoted Sound and Appropriate Farming Practices
Unsound farming beliefs and practices that have been in place for a long time were corrected. In project sites in the Philippines, excessive and unnecessary use of chemical inputs and burning of farm wastes have been minimized, if not completely stopped. In Vietnam, the farmer-participants now adhere to the principle of “1 must; 5 reductions” (1 must: use of good quality seeds; 5 reductions: reduce amount of seeds, chemical fertilizer, chemical pesticides, water, and post-harvest losses).
3. Inspired Continuous Training
Learning does not stop in the four corners of the classroom or, in the case of the FFS, at the end of the project. With their technical knowledge enhanced and their confidence improved, farmer-participants continue experimenting even long after the project in their area has drawn to a close. The exposure they had in the FFS likewise opened opportunities for other trainings, thus further enhancing their knowledge and skills.
4. Derived Support and Recognition from Authorities
Since their involvement in the program, the FFS graduates are securing more opportunities for support and getting recognition from local governments and institutions. In Thailand, support came in the form of improved water sources and supply of farming needs such as seeds, implements and tools, seed improvement, more training, and even promotion of farmers groups. In the Philippines, some LGUs have provided counterpart PPB/FFS trainings. Farmer-partners in Vietnam have likewise received recognition from the communities for their accomplishments. The Department of Crop Production came up with the Green Address and Golden Address Awards, both for assurance of quality of seeds awarded to seed clubs.
4. Improved Qualities and Quantities of Varieties and Seeds
Having developed skills in seed selection and breeding, farmers are now selecting and developing varieties that bear their preferred characteristics: good eating quality, high-yielding, pest- and disease-resistant, early maturing, and adaptable to soil local conditions, to name a few. The development of genetically diverse new varieties have contributed to rice diversity, increase in income, and food security in the community.
5. Improved Access to Quality Seeds
Farmers have ceased being mere buyers of seeds from commercial seed companies. With the establishment of mechanisms such as seed banks and seed exchanges, farmers now buy from or exchange quality seeds with fellow farmers through seed groups or clubs. Better access to quality seeds has resulted in reduced production cost and increased seed diversity.
Improved Production and Income
Farmers reported increased income after applying the techniques they learned through the FFS. Their production cost was reduced while their yields increased. By adapting varieties suitable to local farming conditions, losses were likewise minimized even in the face of such variables as droughts, pests, and floods, among others.
Provided Better Prospects for Food Security
Food security—minimally defined as having enough rice (or maize) for home consumption—is felt and reported in project sites as a result of improved production techniques and enhanced farmer capacities and practices. Crop diversification also plays a role. Planting secondary crops alongside the main crops and in between cropping seasons resulted not only in better yield (for the main crops) but also in more crops available for household consumption and for sale. As noted in the CSA, better food security results in better nutrition as well as in farmers’ access to the other basic needs that tend to be foregone during insecure times, such as education.
Contributed to Local Economies
In some project sites, new farmer-bred varieties energized local economies in a big way. In Calasiao, Pangasinan, a town in the northern part of the Philippines, a new rice variety which the farmers called Calasiao Rice proved to be suitable as the main ingredient of a well-known and sought-after puto (a kind of rice cake), which is a major driver of the town’s economy. Further up north, in Burgos, Ilocos Norte (also in the Philippines), a major source of income among farmers is the production of a corn variety favored for the production of chi-cha corn (roasted or deep-fried corn kernels), popular among tourists.
[Published in BREEDING CHANGE: SEARICE 2014-2015 Report. Original title, "Impacts of Programs from the Farmers' Viewpoints."]