A British Agricultural Consultant's Journey to Bobon, Northern Samar, Philippines - November 2022

A British Agricultural Consultant's Journey to Bobon, Northern Samar, Philippines - November 2022

In November 2022, agricultural consultant Tom Warren from Prism Agriculture Ltd, UK visited the province area of Bobon, Northern Samar, Philippines. Whilst there, he learned that the Philippines Department of Agriculture, Leyte Division of PhilRice (Philippines Rice Research Institute) - Which is the most recognised Rice Research Institute in the world were hosting a seminar nearby for some 35 small-scale Filipino rice farmers who had been taking part in an extension program of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) involving crop trials for enhanced yields of rice varieties in different growing areas.

The Leyte team organisers from https://www.philrice.gov.ph/ completed their group meeting including their KeyChecks monitoring and comparing their 2021 Baseline Yields [t/Ha] and Grain Yields [t/Ha] and Tom kindly offered to share his knowledge of British Agriculture with the group of Filipino rice farmers. Tom had never been to the Philippines before, but was excited to learn more about the country's agricultural regions (of which there are many, including many different climates within the archiepelago of islands) + the challenges, threats, benefits and the economical and environmental issues faced by farmers there. 

Tom was greeted by a group of welcoming farmers, who were eager to learn from Tom's knowledge and expertise, even though we don't grow rice in the UK, many of the challenges faced are same, but on much larger or significantly smaller scales. Tom started by introducing himself then giving a brief talk to the farmers on British agriculture. They discussed the different types of crops that are grown in Britain, our climate and weather patterns, the agricultural practices that are used, and the challenges that British farmers face.

The farmers were particularly interested in learning about British agricultural technologies including mechanisation, as they explained that cooperatives exist which own up to three rowcrop tractors, but there are up to 50 farmers in the cooperative relying on the use of those few tractors and they are not always available. So, they asked how they could be used to improve rice production in the Leyte region if more mechanisation was available. Tom explained to them the basics of how Agricultural Contracting works in the UK and said rather than the few farmers holding the tractors for their own use, they should become the contractors for all the farmers, which they thought was a novel idea.

After the talk, Tom spent more time in Bobon and visited a mango and jackfruit plantation on Biri Island. Tom was impressed by the farmers' knowledge, hard work and dedication, and was confident that the native farmers would remember meeting a 'foreigner' agricultural consultant out in the province, they certainly treated him like a celebrity!.Tom left Bobon with a deep sense of respect for the Filipino rice farmers. Tom was inspired by the farmers' resilience and their determination to improve their lives.

Whilst there, Tom also learn't about Golden Rice, which is ordinary rice that has been enhanced with Beta Carotene, designed to handle a specific nutrition issue and a valuable asset in the battle against Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD). Cont'd below image:

"According to the World Health Organization (WHO), VAD afflicts 250 million people worldwide, most of which are preschool children (190 million) and pregnant women (19 million).

VAD is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children, and increases the risk of disease and death from severe infections. Each year, up to 500,000 children go blind as a result of VAD. Half of them die within 12 months of losing their sight.

In the Philippines, VAD incidence continues to be a significant public health issue affecting 15.5%, or between 1.7 to  2 million children under the age of 5. This is based on the 2018-19 Expanded National Nutrition Survey of the Department of Science and Technology-Food and Nutrition Research Institute

Golden Rice received positive food safety evaluations from Food Standards Australia and New Zealand, Health Canada, and the United States Food and Drug Administration in 2018, and from the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Plant Industry in 2019. These agencies concur that Golden Rice is as safe as ordinary rice with the added benefit of beta-carotene in its grain. In 2021, the Philippines became the first country to approve Golden Rice for commercial propagation". Credit: https://www.irri.org

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