Carabao remains Albay farmers’ ‘best friend’ in upland rice production

October 17, 2012 11:07 pm 

By Danny O. Calleja

LIGAO CITY, Oct. 17 — At daybreak, 68-year old farmer Salvador Pedrocillo of Barangay Oma-oma here would trek the rugged path to his farm with his carabao in tow.

Before long, the tandem would be seen working on the contoured farm, plowing the soil as part of the land preparation for next cropping season.

This is for the traditional upland rice variety Pedrocillo had been producing since about five decades ago.

They blow their cork before sunrise to spare the animal from the sun's rays.

Oma-oma, 20 kms from the city proper, is nestled on a hill that boasts upland rice crops grown in contours showcasing the farmers’ traditional rice growing culture.

There are around 40 households in the village engaged in upland rice production, each owning at least one carabao used as farm help instead of machines for mechanized farming.

Because of Oma-oma's slightly rolling topography, Pedrocillo said plowing and harrowing are done with the carabao.

“Our carabaos remain our best friend and farm companion. These animals are reliable in our terrain where farm machineries are not,” he told PNA in the Bicol language.

Upland rice varieties abound in the place, including kinarawe, pinalawan, dinorado, dalingkapis, tapol, tinuma, magsireke, kabiday and the glutinous rice variety they call kinalansing.

Tata Badong, as Pedrocillo is addressed in the village, said they have been planting traditional upland varieties for over five decades.

According to him, upland rice varieties are resistant to pest and diseases, aromatic, with good eating quality, require less farm inputs and highly marketable.

Besides, they could survive without irrigation or solely on rainfall.

These can be distinguished from the lowland rice varieties because of their long, plump and heavy grains.

Marivic Caballas, who owns an inherited two-hectare rice farm in the village, recalled her great grandparents up to her generation have been planting these varieties as part of their usual cropping pattern.

Planting season in the village is during summer — running between April and May — and harvest comes by October.

Caballas said they only plant once a year.

They plant along the lines and for sloping areas the bunkol system is applied.

Bunkol is a 10-foot bamboo pole with metal tips for making holes. The local term for the farming method or planting is "asok" using the bunkol.

This is a traditional farming method with zero tillage.

But the most common practice in planting is "budbod" or placing the seeds on the lines to ensure that seedlings are in rows to facilitate weeding.

Planting rice once a year is advantageous, with Oma-oma farmers believing the cycle of pest and disease is incomplete when fallow period takes place.

It also allows the soil to replenish lost nutrients, the reason Oma-oma farmers seldom use chemical fertilizer.

Interestingly, despite the tedious practice, these farmers still prefer the traditional method of planting up to harvesting to their desire of preserving the old practice inherited from their ancestors.

“This is for the benefit of our next lines of generation,” said Tata Badong.

In harvesting, they usually use a native tool called “gutol” and not sickle used in the lowland farms.

Gutol, according to Caballas, minimizes grain loss because harvesting is done slowly and manually — cutting only the rice panicle one by one.

In extracting the grains from the panicle, they use the traditional way of threshing called “ginik” or the use of their feet.

Magdalena Pobocan, the village’s agricultural technician, said Oma-oma farmers get better price for their upland rice that fetches between P40 and 50 per kilo.

Village farms yield an average of 60 cavans of palay per hectare per harvest.

Two other nearby barangays — Maonon and Abella — are also in the same rice production practice and, according to Pobocan, continuous technical assistance and monitoring are done by the Dept. of Agriculture to ensure farmers adopt appropriate technologies.

For Pedrocillo and his fellow Oma-oma farmers, this farming heritage must be preserved.

“This inheritance would help us sustain and survive the unsettling globalization," he added. (PNA)

HBC/DOC/CBD/

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