At a glance, the chief goal of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) Seed Program seems pretty simple – to distribute certified seeds to rice farmers. Looking deeper, it is not an easy pursuit, especially if we add the pandemic to the equation.

Since the start of the program in September 2019, various partners in the field mushroomed. Among them were the local government units (LGU).

Keeping it wide

In Binalbagan, Negros Occidental, many farmers are challenged by distance. Travelling to the municipal center is tedious and expensive for those residing in remote barangays like Amontay, Santol, and Bi-ao. One habalhabal (rented motorcycle) ride would cost them P400.00.

Barangay Umiray in General Nakar, Quezon also contends with the same Rooted &growing predicament. Although its farmers occupy the largest rice area in the municipality, they are also the farthest from the warehouse where RCEF seed distribution usually happens.

Community lockdowns imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic limit San Miguel, Bulacan farmers from easily going to seed distribution points. The province is part of the NCR Plus Bubble, with Rizal, Cavite, and Laguna. Travel restrictions were among the precautionary measures against the onslaught of the Delta variant of the virus.

In Alfonso Lista, Ifugao, unpaved roads, slopes, and distance, plus restricted mobility due to the pandemic slowed down the farmers from their farm activities and attendance to seed distribution.

These situations pushed the LGUs of the four municipalities to bring the program closer to the farmers. The Municipal Agriculture Offices (MAO) coordinated with the seed delivery teams to drop the RCEF seeds even to the farthest barangays.

“We believe the on-site distribution eased the difficulties faced by our farmers, especially the marginalized,” Cesar Gayem, Binalbagan municipal agriculturist (MA), said.

The LGU of San Miguel also established a system whereby the barangay officials collect the seeds at the municipal drop-off point after they receive the go-signal from the MAO, and later distribute them to their farmer-constituents.

“The committee assigned by our barangay LGU in Sta. Rita, San Miguel would call us when we are scheduled to receive the RCEF seeds. Their system was beneficial because it is near, it is safer with lesser crowd, and the queue is shorter,” farmerbeneficiary Tirso Yasis acknowledged.

John Leo Tena, General Nakar’s MA said they organized seed deliveries by barangay cluster, especially in areas where there is limited access to vehicles.

“Clustered deliveries were successful; thanks to the cooperation of other offices in the LGU such as the Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Office, Municipal Engineering, and the Office of the Municipal Mayor. They supported us by lending their service vehicles,” Tena gave credit to where it is due.

Working deep

In San Juan, La Union, MAO officerin-charge Jovita Abengona said their staffers always ensure that storage buildings and warehouses are available when seeds are up for delivery and inspection.

In New Corella, Davao del Norte, the MAO prepares a well-planned planting calendar per barangay as basis for scheduling all their activities. They vowed that their assistance to farmers must always be on time. They also use media platforms to reach a massive number of farmers.

“We have a local radio program in MON 88.9 station. Here, we broadcast the schedules of seed distribution per barangay. We also optimize our official facebook page for the same purpose,” New Corella MA Robert Oracion said.

Under DA-PhilRice Midsayap, the only municipality that has completed the encoding in the RCEF Seed Monitoring System was Midsalip, Zamboanga del Sur. They therefore planned their distribution activities well and gathered the needed information in the farmers’ acknowledgment receipt properly.

“We maximized the use of digital technologies [tablets] to encode and immediately send our records to the system of the DA-PhilRice,” Midsalip MA Imelda Sarcauga noted.

Fruits of cooperation

After four seasons, from Sep 2019 to Sep 2021, DA-PhilRice and the LGUs were able to distribute 7.08 million bags of certified seeds, benefitting an average of almost 700,000 farmers across all seasons. A more meaningful insight – the Philippine Statistics Authority recorded an all-time high palay production data of 19.96 million metric tons in 2021. While these successes must not be exclusively attributed to the activities of the program implementers, these are proof that the efforts and the cooperation among the workers in agriculture are not in vain. Instead, these exercises of service are rooted an

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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