M. M. Escalada, Visayas State University, Baybay, Leyte, Philippines
Ho Van Chien, Southern Regional Plant Protection Center, Long Dinh, Vietnam
Joachim Spangenberg, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, Germany
Vera Tekken, University of Greifswald, Germany
On 9-18 November 2011, we carried out multi-stakeholder consultations in Tien Giang province, Vietnam and Banaue, Ifugao province in the Philippines. We conducted field visits, focus group discussions (FGD) and key informant interviews with local government officials, rice farmers, traders and millers, and tourism managers.
In Tien Giang province, local leaders were aware of the social, cultural and economic impact of climate change on agriculture. Land use is characterized by small landholdings with highly intensified rice production and overuse of agro-chemicals. As a result there is labor shortage. The rice supply chain involves many stakeholders with large gaps in profit margin.
With small landholdings, farmers lack capital, storage facilities. and control over farm gate prices. They depend on middlemen. Pest management is predominantly influenced by pesticide retailers.
Tourism in Tien Giang province tries to capitalize on natural landscape or scenery but insufficiently supported by the government. Tourism leaders need exposure to overseas market needs and innovative ideas to promote ecotourism in the province.
The presence of traditional gods — God of the sky (see picture A), Land God (B), and Lucky and Prosperous Gods (C and D). The God of the Sky is placed outside the house and mounted on an elevated pedestal, higher than the land. The small temple is the Land God who is seen to be always helping the living people. The Vietnamese phrase for the Land God is “Safe Land – Man Come”. The display of these gods of good luck and prosperity in a pesticide shop (pic C) and at the huge rice mill (pic D) attest to the influence of cultural beliefs in the rice-related livelihoods of farm families in Tien Giang. According to farmers, the Vietnamese family worships Tho Cong, or the God of Home, who takes care of the home and blesses the family. The village has its Thanh Hoang, the God of the village, who protects and guides the whole village. Four Immortal Gods are also revered: God Tan Vien (to prevent flooding), God Giong (to resist and fight foreign invaders), God Chu Dong Tu (to consistently build one’s fortune).
We talked to local government officers, agriculture staff, rice farmers and tourism officers in Banaue and Hingyon towns in Ifugao province to discuss land use, cultural values and aesthethics.
Rice is planted only once a year, preparing the seedbed in December, planting in January-February and harvesting in June-July. Cooperative farming or “bayanihan” is practiced where neighboring farmers help carry out one’s farm operations such as land preparation, planting, harvesting, and repairing terrace walls or irrigation canals. No cash payment is made for labor rendered but the owner of the field provides the food and is expected to help another neighbor when called upon for help in the future. For many households, the harvested rice is purely for home consumption. Farmers practice seed exchange and varieties commonly planted include California, Eumpur, Dunal, Imbangol, and Inlamuhan.
One woman farmer in Bangaan, Juliet Nalliw, narrated that rice harvested from their four “terraces” could only provide her household’s rice supply for four months, after which, they would purchase rice to feed the family. Besides rice, her family also grows sweet potato on their swidden field in the mountain. Her husband’s wood carving and monthly contributions from her two older children working in the handicraft factory are her primary means of livelihood. When the cash from these sources runs out, she resorts to micro credit. Despite the once-a-year rice cropping, Juliet expressed that they will continue growing rice as the land is her husband’s inheritance which should not be sold.
While local residents acknowledged that culture is closely linked to rice production, modern rice production has done away with most traditional rituals in Banaue and to a certain extent in Hingyon town. With the conversion of many Ifugao residents to Christianity came the decline in the practice of rituals. However, one local government staff we talked to believes that the non-practice of traditional rituals could be the reason why the terraces have been plagued with soil erosion and pest problems.
Farmers reported golden apple snail and earthworms as their most important pest problems. Thumb-sized giant earthworms that grow more than a foot long burrow deep into the Banaue rice terraces have been blamed for the deterioration of the rice terraces. The earthworm problem has been attributed to the lack of water as earthworms burrow deep into the soil. The holes earthworms bore cause the terrace walls to dry up and crack.
As farming in the rice terraces is no longer economically viable, many of the youth have abandoned farming in favor of employment in the cities. To augment their meager income from subsistence farming, farm families have resorted to tourist-related businesses such as weaving handicraft, woodcarving and guiding tourists. For some, farming has become part-time because they are engaged in wood carving to earn quick cash.