The Heirloom Rice Project (HRP), a collaborative project of the Cordillera office of the Department of Agriculture, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), secures the sustainability of Cordillera’s centuries-old heirloom rice for the next 40 years through genebanking.
Specifically, the seeds will be stored in a black box to securely conserve the rice within the span of 25 to 40 years. Currently, 69 heirloom rice landraces from Benguet, Ifugao, Mountain Province, and Kalinga are kept both in IRRI and PhilRice’s genebank.
Furthermore, an additional 126 inherited races will be included this year from the project’s expansion barangays in the said provinces. Thus, with a total of 195 samples conserved,
PhilRice points out that the threat of losing these valuable materials such as the heirloom rice makes conservation efforts increasingly more urgent and important.
The project also discovered through community consultations that there are already landraces which are no longer planted while some are on the verge of extinction.
Rosa Dungawan, 73, said “Awanen dagijay kadaanan nga kankanen mi nga mula ti ap-apong mi, nasukatan dan. (The rice we ate planted by our forefathers are long gone and replaced.)”
Dungawan also reechoes her regret that even if she had the opportunity to taste them, her grandchildren were not able to.
Agriculturist May Ann C. Tuba-ang explains that in case of unforeseen events that endanger the current landraces, the community can retrieve the seeds from both of the agencies for reproduction.
The collection of seeds from the different communities were conducted after receiving the approval of each barangays covered.
Aside from the conservation of heirloom rice, the project also aims to preserve the rice through an increased production in order to encourage farmers to continue producing the rice passed down by the region’s ancestors.
By Jenny M. Dayao