Friday, May 2, 2014

Lowland influences contributed to vanishing traditional upland rice varieties

Focus group discussions and survey among the farmers indicated distinct lowland influences that modified traditional farming systems in Kihan. The over all impact of the lowland influences is a threat to the cultural survival of their unique Blaan traditional upland rice agriculture For one, they noted that the introduction of cash economy and paid labor displaced the Bayanihan systems that the farmers had been using for many generations, has resulted in hunger, poverty and indebtedness. The change of mindset of the Blaan affects their sense of volunteerism especially among the younger generation that opted for money as payment for farm labor. The economic forces from the lowland business men like the demand for the bya-o enticed more farmers to go to the hinterlands and look for the bya-o as it commands quick and bigger money. Another lowland influence is the adoption of hybrid irrigated rice introduced to the farmers that cause them to discard their traditional variety. Also, it forced the farmers to buy synthetic fertilizers and pesticides that is an added burden to them. Farmers who shifted to planting irrigated rice varieties realized that if hybrid rice cultivation is intensified, it will result to further upland rice genetic loss in their field. Unlike upland rice, they do not perform rituals in planting and harvesting of the hybrid irrigated rice. The promotion of high yielding cash crops especially modern variety of corn is another lowland influence that modified Kihan’s agricultural landscape. Most farmers have bigger area for corn farm rather than upland rice farm. This shift in agricultural system makes their bigger farm a mono-crop of corn displacing most of the crops that are found within the upland rice farms. They keep smaller size of their farm for upland rice. The shift in the corn cropping system prompted again for the farmers to buy synthetic fertilizers and pesticides to ensure optimum corn yield. This decision of farmers to cultivate bigger area for corn has become a salient factor in the diminishing upland rice varieties. Another cultural change is that, no rituals and traditional practices are performed in their corn farming experience. Post-harvest and transportation cost for corn harvest is another stage that farmer has to struggle with just to earn marginal income. They have to hire horses to transport their product gong to the Barangay and haul their products through the weapon before it would reach the final market. This alone cost a lot for the farmers.

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