The Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) is assisting the indigenous people (IP) in Sarangani to protect their traditional rice varieties (TRVs).
“We have been waiting for this move from the government to conserve our traditional varieties. The entire IP community fully supports this project,” expresses Mr. Celito C. Terando, provincial government project manager of Sulong Tribu.
As Sarangani is one of the areas most vulnerable to drought, preserving the seeds is important in breeding new climate-change ready seeds for the area. Blaan, Tagakaolo, Tboli, Manobo, Ubo, and Kalagan tribes live in its upland areas where most TVRs are planted.
Starting this year, the locals and PhilRice’s Genetic Resources team will collect, conserve, survey, and document the varieties in a project, “Conservation of Sarangani Traditional Rice Germplasm (SaTRice).” The team will also evaluate the grain quality, level of resistance to pest and diseases, and level of tolerance to drought or submergence stress.
Jess Bryan Alvariño, project staff, said the farmers noted the TRVs resistance to pests and drought. They also produce good yield even without fertilizer and pesticide intervention.
Alvariño also said Sarangani has no records of germplasm collection in the PhilRice Genebank. Germplasm are genetic materials used for breeding new rice varieties.
“As Saranggani has a significant number of estimated  TRVs [with unique traits], it is our foremost initiative to conserve and protect all their rice germplasm,” he said. Results from identifying and testing the TRVs will be used to recommend the best variety suited in the province. The high quality TRVs will be stored at PhilRice Genebank, which houses more than 5000 Philippine TRVs and more than 16, 000 germplasm collections.
Based on the study conducted by Mindanao State University-Gensan, 107 TRVs with unique traits were identified in the area.
Comprehensive data on morphological and molecular profiles of TRVs are expected to be gathered specifically those that pertain to size, shape, and structure of seed components.
Farmers, mostly indigenous people (IP), can also utilize these data in adding value/price to their varieties if they decided to commercialize it.
Other than conservation and characterization, the said project also aims to establish and strengthen community-based seed banks for IP communities in partnership with the Provincial Government of Sarangani and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples.