In 2016, AGREA introduced the System of Rice Intensification (or SRI) component of Self-Palayance to thirty rice farmers in the province of Marinduque in coordination with the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Marinduque Office and SRI-Pilipinas. In support of the training, demo SRI farms were set up in five farming communities in the island.
"SRI is a rice production technique introduced in Madagascar in the early 1980’s; this technique involves the use of relatively lesser farming inputs compared to conventional method of rice production. SRI promises more yield through the use of organic methods of farming with less negative impact to the environment."
SRI also allows farmers to save more capital while increasing their profitability. It has been adapted by many Southeast Asian countries like Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, Timor Leste, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
Decades ago, the system had reached the Philippines and since then had been adapted in different provinces through the efforts of Cornell University and the International Institute for Rural Reconstruction (IIRR).
In Marinduque, the 30 farmers experienced hands-on technical training such as organic fertilizer production, and regular data recording, among other practical skills.
The training enabled the farmers to be empowered rice producers.
"It was my first time to measure data like plant height, tillers, and grains," shares Irene Pergis, one of the farmer trainees from the Malibago Upland Farmers Association of Torrijos, Marinduque. "I felt like I was a farmer scientist," she added.
SRI DEMO FARM of the Liwanag ng Napo Multi-sectoral Peoples' Association in Barangay Napo, Sta. Cruz, Marinduque
The farmers went through season-long rigorous and practical skills training - equivalent to three months - including monitoring and evaluation, data gathering and record keeping.
"It was observed that rice grown under SRI were more resistant to diseases and were able to withstand drought compared to rice grown conventionally, the latter of which experienced pest and disease incidences at an early stage. Farmers also claimed that their yield with SRI was relatively higher than their previous harvests grown through the conventional method."
The Next Phase
Comparative analysis and further studies of this system will be conducted starting July of 2017.
"With AGREA and DAR's efforts to ensure continuous training and development in our farming communities, we will be conducting a second run of SRI with the same communities we trained last year," shared Cherrie Atilano, AGREA President and Founding Farmer.
"We believe that SRI is a scientific and technical practice of agriculture. The more we involve our local farmers into this process, all the more that they will be empowered and self-reliant," she added.
The second run of SRI includes Capacity Building courses to complement the technical training the farmers received in 2016. This also involves values formation and basic financial literacy training on top of a refresher course on organic rice production.