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While other farmers were contented in smelling and counting the tillers of their preferred rice varieties, the leader of the Dumagat tribe gathered some panicles and placed them in a kiddie backpack.

“I’ll show these grains to my tribesmen to encourage them to plant this variety, which I think, is better than the rice we usually plant in the mountains in Rio Chico,” Chieftain Ronnie Bote said after attending the recent Farm Walk conducted by Philippine Rice Research Institute and International Rice Research Institute in Brgy. Nazareth, Gen. Tinio, Nueva Ecija.

Bote, the 40-year-old chieftain, said he preferred NSIC Rc23 or Katihan 1 among other 13 rice lines and varieties being tested for adaptability in a 1,200 sqm – plot in the said barangay.

Bote, a farmer for nine years, said he was surprise to learn that NSIC Rc23 could be harvested after 108 days, and that it could yield up to 7.6 t/ha. The variety, an upland variety released last year, registered an average yield of 3.6 t/ha, in multi-location yield trials.

“Our traditional varieties are tall, mature in five months, and the grains are sometimes discolored. But the varieties we see here have golden grains, good stand, and more grains and tillers,” the 40-year-old tribe leader said in Filipino.

Bote and his fellow farmers in the upland cultivate rice once a year and the yield usually registers less than 2 t/ha.

“I learned much from the Farm Walk. As the tribe leader, I believe that our poor conditions in the upland could be improved through the support of the government and its partners,” he said.

The Farm Walk is part of the Improving livelihoods and overcoming poverty in the drought-prone lowlands of South and Southeast Asia project funded by International Fund for Agricultural Development and covers Cambodia, India, Indonesia Laos, and Nepal.

Bote said he and his tribesmen dream of their children finishing school and owning properties such as motorcycles. With the activity, he said that he did not only gain knowledge, but also the grains he carried in his bag – their tribe’s grains of hope for better life.

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Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) is a government corporate entity attached to the Department of Agriculture created through Executive Order 1061 on 5 November 1985 (as amended) to help develop high-yielding and cost-reducing technologies so farmers can produce enough rice for all Filipinos.

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Philippine Rice Research Institute