Rice is one of the prime commodities and staple food specifically here in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) along with other alternative crops like root and tuber crops.
Ensuring that there is always rice in every household’s table is everyone’s dream. In barangay Barit, Luba in Abra, this dream is being realized as the Barit Womens Ube Growers Association (BWUGA) takes the lead in ensuring rice sufficiency in the community though their rice banking. BWUGA President Estrella Asuncion said that with the establishment of a rice granary, there is already a closer market for rice and that the community’s worry on rice shortage was eased. The community members need not go to Bangued or nearby communities in order to buy rice for their consumption especially during lean months because the association has ready stocks that the local folks can procure. Consolidated rice can be sold per cavan or per kilo depending on the immediate needs and available cash of the community members. Although rice is a main crop in the community, most farmers are only practicing one cropping per year since most fields are rainfed. During summer, they would shift into tobacco farming which requires lesser water consumption.
The rice banking business was implemented by the association through the Php100, 000.00 livelihood assistance fund (LAF) loan provided by the Second Cordillera Highland Agricultural Resource Management Project (CHARMP2) in February 2015. 10% of which went to the community financing institution, who served as LAF conduit, as its services fee. The BWUGA which is composed of 80 women members, is originally into ube (yam) production, hence their name. When the Project came in the community in 2011, two subgroups namely BWUGA LIG1 and BWUGA LIG2 were organized within the association purposely for the LAF implementation to carry out their identified agricultural businesses on swine production and rice banking, respectively. The LIG2 is composed of 20 members.
Business implementation and good practices
Even before the group’s business started, there are already rice buyers who are personally going to barangay Barit to buy their rice harvests. And when they found out that there is already an association that consolidates unmilled rice in the community, they increased the price of rice in order to win the farmer’s harvest. “Jay dadduma ilako da kanyada, jay dadduma met ilako da kanyami gapu ta ammo da nga paran to metlang kanyada diyay (Others would sell it to them [businessmen] while the others sell it to us because they know that it’s actually for them),” shares Josie Agaloos, Auditor and Bookkeeper of the group. The members are also inclined to sell their products to the association because they are paid on cash basis and not through consignment. The consolidated rice is stored in the house of Ms. Asuncion which is located in sitio Lower Barit since the group does not have a separate rice granary. Consolidated rice in sitio Botot, however, is stored and marketed within the sitio because of its considerable distance to Lower Barit. The BWUGA officers would purchase rice at Php17.00 – Php18.00 per kilo depending on the quality of rice starting from October to December which is the harvest season.
The group later on brings it to the milling house for the milling of rice. The ‘toyo’ or rice bran collected during the milling process is also sold by the association at Php50 - 60 pesos per sack. The amount, in return, is used to pay for the milling fee and labor of haulers.
If consolidated rice is abundant, the group would do ‘buy and sell’ adding one - two pesos per kilo to its original price. While doing so, the group makes sure that there is enough reserved rice for the community. “Nu maibusan kami ti begas, apan kami agatang idjay Bangued ket ilako mi ditoy nga per kilo (When we run out of rice, we would buy in Bangued and sell it per kilo in the community).
The scheme, they said, is very friendly as it saves their time and effort of going to the market to buy rice. The saved time and effort is used in attending to their other activities at home and on the farm instead.
The group also recognizes the expensive agricultural inputs needed in rice farming. Thus, they adapted the ‘pairikan’ traditional system wherein the association would lend cash to its members purposely for agricultural inputs and when that member harvests his crop after 3-4 months, he/she will pay back the borrowed cash in palay form with 1% interest.
In order to avail of the ‘pairikan’, the borrower should have a ‘tinalon’ (planted rice) to ensure the association that he/she has something to payback in due time. Actual monitoring of the ‘tinalon’ is being conducted by the officers as part of the ‘pairikan’ process.
Another good practice employed by the association is that they are open to lending of rice to the community. BWUGA Pres. Asuncion narrates that they are allowing the community members to borrow rice from them, with zero interest, as they know how it feels of not having rice at the table. However, the borrower must seek first the approval of any barangay official to serve as his/her guarantor to ensure that they will pay as soon as possible. “Ngem uray nu kasta, dagijay met nakautang ket haan da metlang nga paturay nga jay brgy. official ti mangbayad gapu ta mabain da metlang (Even if they have guarantors, the borrowers would not let them pay on their behalf because they feel shy),” said Ms. Asuncion.
With the participative and sincere implementation of their LAF, the group was able to maintain their good business implementation and gained more than Php17, 000.00 or 17%. They then became qualified for the LAF as grant which they received later on July 2016. Based from their financial records, their net income has increased to 51% for the second year of their LAF implementation (August 2016 – July 2017), and from August– December 2017, they gained a net income of Php10,675.00. To date, the association has a total revolving fund of around Php140,000.00 aside from the 32 stocks of unmilled rice.
Accordingly, one of the main contributors in maintaining their business is the strict compliance with their approved policies and guidelines. Regular meetings, they added, also enabled them to discuss important matters such as financial and physical accomplishments thus, establishing transparency and nurturing good business implementation within and among themselves.
At present, the association continues the implementation of their established business which serves as their additional source of income while attending to their main livelihoods – farming and swine raising. Above that, the group is able to maintain the availability of rice in their community.//JBAgrifino