Republic Act 11203 or the “Rice Tariffication Law” lifted quantitative restrictions on rice imports and replaced it with tariffs to ensure the availability of rice in the domestic market. To help local farmers compete with this law, RA 11203 also created the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund or RCEF to help farmers through proper training to improve production and income. Since coming into effect on March 2019, all training for farmers are required to be accomplished at accredited farm schools.
In partnership with TESDA, Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc. (PSFI) facilitated the commencement of the training on Production of High-Quality Inbred Rice and Certified Seeds, including Farm Mechanization to provide intensive upskilling for several farmers in Bombon.
Over the course of the program, the farmers learned the latest efficient rice farming system as well as various topics such as farm mechanization, marketing, and financial literacy to name a few. The goal was to prepare each participant to produce their own high-quality inbred rice seeds in the next cropping season with the use of the modernized integrated rice management technology.
25 farmers were selected to participate from each of the five barangays: Sto. Domingo, San Antonio, San Roque, Seimbre, and San Jose all from Municipality of Bombon. The participants were chosen to receive the scholarship grant based on a set of certain criteria, and were provided the tools and supplies necessary to participate in the training.
The training was divided into 14 sessions, with a minimum of 8 hours per session. The curriculum was conducted through lectures, practicum, and field activity for actual training, each session offering fundamental and useful information to improving how farmers work on their crops.
- Day 1 oriented the participants on the health safety aspects of the program, enumerating several rules to follow, especially protocols regarding COVID-19.
The 1st Session talked about the current situation of the Philippine rice industry. It discussed the reason why the country can’t produce enough rice and the reasons for the high cost of rice production vs. other Asian exporting countries. It also divulged on RCEF and its implications to Rice Farmers, including the legal basis of the program and the four required components: Seed Program, Mechanization Program, Extension Services Program, and Credit Program.
- Session 2 focused on rice morphology and ways to identify the different parts of rice, what its function is, and to understand the different growth stages of rice and its corresponding duration. Participants also learned how to use Palaycheck systems and what it’s all about.
- Sessions 3 and 4 were about the concepts and principles of the Palaycheck system especially on the production of high quality inbred rice and seeds. Other topics in this session included the selection of quality seeds, land preparation, roguing, nutrition, pest management. Agroecosystem analysis and the steps to conducing it was also discussed.
- Sessions 5 to 9 combined lectures, discussions, and hands-on activities. The session started with the importance of roguing, methods of crop establishments, and a lecture on the factors affecting plant establishment and yield. Sessions also touched on different tools and types of machinery used in transplanting and seeding. They also learned farm machinery operation and safety, more sustainable and effective usage of fertilizer, and water -saving techniques and technologies for rice production.
- Session 10 focused on different postharvest operations and the machinery used during different postharvest operations.
- Session 11 mainly discussed basic financial management, which included the Five Cs/Ks of Credit, Credit/Loan Management, Preparation of Farm Plan and Budget, and Lending Programs through interactive activities.
- Session 12 discussed the seed certification process and procedures for testing seeds under the rules and regulations of the International Seed Testing Association. Participants also did an activity on conducting seed testing in moisture content determination, physical purity test, germination test, and varietal purity test.
- Session 13 focused more on crop cut, yield, and yield components of rice. The session also tackled factors and practices that increase yield component, and plot sampling. Under this session, participants were also lectured on the Financial Analysis of Selected Agricultural Machinery for Rice Mechanization to determine the cost of farming using farm machinery in comparison to manual labor.
- In the 14th session, the last one, participants were taught to operate a four-wheel-drive tractor and combined harvester. Each participant drove the farm machinery for them to have first-hand experience and apply basic knowledge on how to operate it. Actual harvesting using combined harvester was also facilitated to help them understand how farm machinery can be efficient.
Through March 8-12, 2020, all 125 participants of the program were honored in a graduation ceremony. Held at the Shell Training Farm Bombon, each batch had their own graduation ceremony per day. The 5-day activity invited special guest Dr. Alejandro Cortez, who delivered a speech during the graduation to express their point of view on the importance of the program: “ In the middle of this pandemic, Agriculture is of the things that help us in this problem to survive and support our daily living that’s why TESDA and our government have this kind of program to support our farmers to improve and mechanize our farming for sufficient and effective way of farming.”
Other notable guests were TESDA Provincial Director, Mrs. Janet Rosales our municipal of agriculture officer from Municipality of Bombon, Mr. Roberto A. Delas Llagas Supervising TESD Specialist from TESDA provincial, Vilma Siocson Assistance Supervising TESD from TESDA provincial, and Barangay Captain of San Antonio, Bombon, Camarines Sur Jovette Dimple L. Alayan.
The activity also observed the HSSE briefing and attendees were reminded to observe health protocols to prevent COVID 19.
Sherley Belencio, a farmer and the Barangay Captain of Brgy. Seimbre, looks back at her experience with a positive outlook: “This training will help us a lot to making right decisions in managing our farm like when to use pesticide and how to improve our harvest.” She encourages her fellow participants to be eager to practice their learnings “One thing I can say to my fellow farmers is to apply all the training we learned. Nothing will be lost if we apply this in our farming, let us support this program.”