By RHODA DALANG
BONTOC, Mountain Province — Liza Maza, lead convenor of the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC), is now an adopted daughter of Mountain Province. She was named Kuliplipan.
Maza was accorded the name Kuliplipan in recognition of her unwavering true service to the people especially the poor. Kuliplipan to Mountain Province folk is a “good-hearted woman, kind in spirit but fearless in defending the cause of the poor and the troubled.”
Maza is the remaining activist cabinet member in the present administration after former Secretary Judy Taguiwalo of the Department of Social Welfare and Development and former Secretary Rafael Mariano of the Department of Agrarian Reform were rejected by the Commission on Appointment.
The adoption rites took place during the workshop on Convergence on the Rehabilitation and Conservation of Rice Terraces for Food Security hosted by the Mountain Province Provincial Government in Bontoc on December 5-6. The adoption rites was officiated by Mountain Province Governor Bonifacio Lacwasan Jr. and graced with the presence of Governors James Edduba of Kalinga and Pedro Mayam-o of Ifugao.
Conservation workshop on Cordilera rice terraces
The workshop was the third in a series of participatory process of crafting a proposed Five-Year Development Plan for the Rehabilitation and Conservation of the Rice Terraces for Food Security in the Cordillera initiated by NAPC.
It is intended to serve as the road map in addressing a host of issues on rice security ranging from ancestral land and domain, water resources, agricultural development, human capital development and socio-economic empowerment founded on and consistent with the Igorot’s indigenous knowledge systems and practices.
The series of workshops affirmed the major problems associated with the declining rice production that include the abandonment of rice farming, labor intensive and especially back breaking work for women, inadequate infrastructures, changing values and the lack of interest of the younger generation in rice farming among others.
Rice and declining irrigation water
The rice production is greatly affected by declining irrigation water attributed to the destruction of irrigation systems and forest denudation. Privatization of sections of the communal forest was similarly raised as a major concern as this is paving its rapid conversion into other uses.
Threats of large-scale projects such as large-scale mining, hydro power and wind energy facilities add up to problems on water resource use and management. Worsening the state of rice production is the water use permitting and charges under the National Water Resources Board. For instance, a communal irrigation system is being asked for by the National Water Resources Board to settle its more than P70,000 dues on charges and penalties.
The most intense discussion went around the lack of interest of the younger generation in rice farming which is supported by the prevailing view that college education is the gateway to survival. It is a similar concern raised by farming elders in the series of community-initiated workshops on the campaign for food sovereignty attended by the Center for Development Programs in the Cordillera (CDPC) and Cordillera Disaster Response and Development Services (CorDis-RDs) in Mountain Province, Ifugao, Kalinga and Abra.
While farming elders agree that sustaining a viable rice farm is at the core of food sovereignty, the current day aspiration of every family is to encourage their children to complete their tertiary education to free themselves from the bondage of laborious rice farming. For those who have family members working in the urban and provincial centers or in other countries, the savings are invested into turning rice paddies, swidden farms and even pine forests into commercial vegetable farms.
Others invest in rice lands in the lowlands or family businesses. There is no case of well-off families investing in rice farming at home. There are a number of cases where middle class families are paying incentives just so their relatives continue tending the much valued inheritance.
In these series of community-initiated workshops on food sovereignty and in the Bontoc workshop convened by the NAPC, the issue of encouraging the current generation to sustain a viable rice production industry remains a challenge.
Pooling resources for sustainable rice terraces
Meanwhile in the NAPC convened workshops, the strategies forwarded to address the current state of rice terraces and production include research and development; mechanization of rice production adopted to the rugged, steep and narrow terrain; rehabilitating and upgrading communal irrigation systems; ensuring ancestral land/domain ownership, utilization, development and management including the natural resources; infrastructure support; and education, information and advocacy campaigns.
Considering the importance of the restoration of sustainable rice terrace farms in the context of food security in the Cordillera, it was proposed to create a body that will either implement or coordinate, monitor and evaluate the implementation of the road map, for instance, the creation of a Cordillera Rice Terrace Authority ensuring an effective participation of farming elders.
In addition, it was proposed that local government units institute program and allocate budget for the conservation of rice terraces. Advocacy campaigns calling for “adopt a rice terrace” is another arena by which support from private individuals and institutions can be generated.
The rice terraces convergence project is an initiative of NAPC aimed at pooling resources and towards a common vision “for the Cordillera rice terraces to be sustained through indigenous knowledge systems and practices for food security.” It is an endeavor in pursuit of NAPC’s thrust and direction in fulfilling the 10 basic needs through policy advocacy and people’s participation.
The convergence workshops is being led by Gerelyn J. Balneg, director of the Local Affairs Coordinating and Monitoring Services of the National Anti-Poverty Commission. Participants of the workshop came from LGU officials, planning officers, line agencies and community organizations belonging to the Cordillera Elders Alliance, Alyansa dagiti Pesante iti Taeng Kordilyera and Cordillera People’s Alliance. The CDPC and CorDis assisted in facilitating the workshops.
Results of the workshop will be subjected for drafting in January 2018 to incorporate data from the municipal local government units which in turn will be subjected for validation by communities. By second quarter of 2018, the convergence plan will be submitted to the Regional Development Council-Cordillera Administrative Region.
The farmers of the rice terraces hope that Liza ‘Kuliplipan’ Maza and the National Anti-Poverty Commission will continue pushing the vision for food security in the Cordillera through sustaining the rice terraces. # nordis.net