Tag Archives: system of rice intensification

SRI Pilipinas Song

This song is dedicated to all farmers who have successfully tried the System of RIce Intensification (SRI) and are now trying to convert their neighbors to the method. Sing to the tune of “Magtanim Ay Di Biro”.

Awit ng SRI-Pilipinas

isinulat ni Roberto Verzola
(sa himig ng Magtanim Ay Di Biro)

Refrain:

Halina, halina, mga kaliyag,
tayo’y magsipag-palay lahat.
Magbago tayo ng kaisipan;
S-Rr-I ang subukan. (Ending: S-Rr-I Pilipinas)

Contra-refrain: (kasabay ng Refrain)
Sa organic SRI, kalusuga’y gaganda;
gastos ay bababa, kabuha-ya’y sasagana.
Sa ingles, “system of rice intensification” sya;
tawaging Sipag-Palay sa mga magsasaka.

I.

Magtanim ay masaya,
maghapong kumakanta.
Uupo kung pagod na;
tatayo kung puwede pa.

II.

Inaamag na ka-nin,
sa pulot patatamisin.
Pitong araw ang hintayin,
I.M.O. ay gagawin.

Refrain/Contra-refrain

III.

Ang dayami’y ipunin,
sa I.M.O. ay diligin.
‘Sang buwan lang na bulukin,
isabog na sa bukirin.

IV.

Gawin mong uling ang ipa,
sa kama’y pampataba.
Sampung kilo’y ipunla,
isang ektarya kasya na.

Refrain/Contra-refrain

V.

Sampung araw na idad,
punla ay ililipat.
Puno ay isa-isa;
layo’y sampung pulgada

VI.

Ang tanim huwag ibabad;
mabubulok ang ugat.
Tatlong araw basain;
isang linggong patuyuin.

Refrain/Contra-refrain

VII.

Sa tuwing sampung araw,
weeder ipambubungkal.
Ang damo’y matatanggal;
ang ugat, mahahanginan.

VIII.

Gawa natin ay may saysay,
Kung suwi’y kumakapal.
Kung ito’y doble bilang,
Puwede nang ipagyabang!

Refrain/Contra-refrain

IX.

Kung namumulaklak na,
tubig papasukin na.
Saya natin ay ikanta;
asahang ani’y maganda.

X.

Kung SRI kabisado na,
tanim gawing iba-iba.
Palay, gulay, puno pa,
Pagkain at pambenta.

Tapos.

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System of Rice Intensification (SRI): failure still counts as success

Last November 27, I was invited by SRI-Pilipinas trainor Aga Milagroso as guest speaker at the graduation ceremonies of 36 farmers of Alaminos, Pangasinan, whom he had trained over a whole season on the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), organic fertilizer making, indigenous microorganism (IMO) activators through rice fermentation, and other useful knowhow for the farm. SRI-Pilipinas national training coordinator Venancio Garde Jr. also made occasional trips to help handle some sessions. SRI-Pilipinas is the consortium of Philippine NGOs, academics and government researchers promoting SRI and organic farming in the Philippines.

The training was conducted over 16 weekly one-day sessions, spanning a whole planting season. It was a hectic schedule for Aga, who had to make the 4-5 hour trip by bus every week from his hometown in Malolos, Bulacan to Alaminos, Pangasinan. Aga says the enthusiastic response from the graduates made it all worth the effort.

Normally, due to funding limitations, SRI-Pilipinas squeezes all the SRI knowhow in a one-day session that includes a half-day of lectures and a half-day of hands-on training. This particular training program, which was funded by the city government of Alaminos, was quite intensive, giving Aga a chance to go into all kinds of details and to cover a lot more ground.

The graduation program itself was held at the village of Linmansangan in Alaminos, Pangasinan, where the 16 sessions of the season-long training were also held.

Official presence was impressive. The regional office of the Department of Agriculture Ilocos Region sent a representative, Wilfredo Pal-laya. Alaminos Mayor Hernani Braganza also sent a representative, city administrator Col. Wilmer Panabang. City councilor and Committee on Agriculture chair Earl James Aquino and fellow councilor Radoc were also there, as was city agriculturist Ernesto S. de Leon. They all exhorted the farmers to apply what they learned to raise their incomes and to take advantage of the emerging organic market.

Here’s the list of SRI graduates:

Women (9): Carmelita D. Foronda, Delia D. Babera, Delia F. Garcia, Febe B. de Ocampo, Generose V. Castro, Imelda O. Rabanal, Jessica V. Baillo (Secretary), Lorena B. Pamittan, and Rosalinda R. Corpuz. Men (27): Agapito B. Tugade, Alfredo R. Purganan, Alselmo O. Corpuz, Armando H. Bautista, Armando L. Laguisma, Boy Cristy Rosales (Treasurer), Eduardo A. Rabago, Fernald S. de Guzman (Sgt-at-arms), Ismael M. Laguisma (Sgt.-at-arms), Jaime P. Abarra, Jerry D. Ico (Public relations officer), Joel R. Zabala (Business manager), Joseph C. Estrada, Julio C. Abora, Lorenzo B. Laguisma Sr., Lyndon B. Baillo (Business manager), Mariano B. Quiam, Orlando Bernas, Oscar B. Duco, Osmar A. Mejia (President), Paulino R. Rabaya, Ramil G. Camba, Rogelio L. Laguisma Sr. (Vice-president), Rogelio R. Reyes (Public relations officer), Rolly B. Laguisma, Romel C. Purganan (Auditor), and Veronico B. Verzola.

I was all attention, when one of the graduates Osmar Mejia reported the results of the group’s SRI trial. The results were not really impressive. In fact, it looked definitely disappointing to me:

SRI

Conventional

Paddy rice yield (palay)

1,696 kg

4,033 kg

Polished rice (bigas)

1,159 kg

2,086 kg

Gross revenue (P40/kg)

P46,360

P83,448

Total production cost (P)

P43,770

P36,832

Net income (P)

P2,590

P46,616

Mejia explained why, despite the seemingly disappointing results, they felt encouraged and positive about SRI. He said the SRI plot had been ravaged by the dreaded tungro disease as well as the rice bug. But in the training, they learned how to control these through botanical preparations. They were especially awed by the anti-tungro concoction they learned from SRI-Pilipinas national trainor Jun Garde — ordinary cooking oil, onions and garlic ground on a pestle and sprayed on the rice plants. That the plants would actually recover and even give them a small net income was truly impressive, Mejia said. They also saw with their own eyes the high-tillering rates that distinguish SRI-grown plants from the conventionally-grown ones, and they understood what this meant in terms of higher yield, had their triat plot not been attacked by tungro and the rice bug. Thus, when Ilocos DA representative Wilfredo Pal-laya asked the graduates, “Was your trial successful?”, they enthusiastically chorused, “Yes!”

Mejia further explained that the high SRI production cost was mainly due to labor cost, which he attributed to the steep learning curve. Hired hands were not used to the unusual SRI practices and demanded higher wages, and they were slower at their tasks too. The labor costs will go down, he said, as people became more familiar with the method. Already, some graduates were saying that they would in fact save on labor costs, once they had mastered the method.

When it was my turn to talk, I basically told the graduates the following:

Graduation rites are often called “commencement exercises” because, they not only mark the end of one phase but also the beginning of the next phase of the learning process. You are done with the training, it is now time for action, to put into practice what you have learned in the past 16 weeks. Then, SRI-Pilipinas can tap you, like we have tapped Aga, to train your fellow farmers and help them learn how to improve their income, at the same time, creating a healthier environment for themselves and their families.

Actually, SRI-Pilipinas taps for its trainors farmers who have had at least two seasons of experience with SRI. You must try what you learned, learn from your mistakes as well as your successes, and acquire confidence in the method. Then you can teach others.

It doesn’t really take much to learn SRI. SRI-Pilipinas got a grant of a little bit more than eight hundred thousand pesos from the Department of Agriculture, and we were able to train nearly a thousand farmers in 48 provinces with that money, mostly through one-day trainings attended by 25-30 participants. Since you had 16 one-day sessions, you probably know by now sixteen times more than Aga does, who learned his SRI after he attended a one-day seminar conducted by my wife Flora in November 2006 in San Miguel, Bulacan. Aga brought home the primer he got from that seminar, tried SRI, and was immediately successful with it. Of course you learn more in 16 days than in one. When Aga himself trained the members of his Crop Growers Association in Malolos, Bulacan, he also used the farmers’ field school method of season-long training.

But I want to emphasize that for a farmer who is determined to learn, a one-day session is enough. In fact, the primer should be enough. We have farmers who simply wrote us to send them our free primer, and they learned SRI this way, supplemented with occasional text messages when they had questions that needed quick answers.

The Department of Agriculture has committed to convert 10% of the country’s nearly four million hectares of rice lands to organic/SRI production. At an average of one farmer per hectare, that’s around four hundred thousand farmers to train. When you are ready, after having accumulated some practical experience in using SRI, we will be asking you to train other farmers, as Aga has trained you, perhaps in this region, in your province or in your town.

Promoting SRI among rice farmers

I had written earlier about the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), a new method of growing rice that reduces costs, raises yields and minimizes the use of poisons in the farm. The method is being promoted in the Philippines by an NGO consortium which I coordinate, SRI-Pilipinas, as well as by other groups advocating sustainable agriculture.

Last November 7, I was invited by Aga Milagroso to his farm in Malolos, Bulacan, about 1 hour by bus north of Manila, to meet his 50 visitors from Alaminos, Pangasinan, which is in turn about 6 hours by bus north of Manila. Aga’s visitors from Alaminos were farmers, including 37 who were attending the weekly trainings on SRI and organic farming that Aga was conducting in Alaminos on the request of its mayor, Hernani Braganza.

It was heart-warming to hear Aga’s guests from Alaminos as well as some local farmers who had joined the visit, express their curiosity and their intention to try SRI. The seeds SRI-Pilipinas had been patiently planting throughout the country were now starting to bear fruit.

We have been promoting SRI in the Philippines since 2002. Before that I had been promoting it publicly since 2000, after my wife Flor, who comes from a farming family, successfully tried the method for two seasons in her upland village of Bgy. Casispalan in Tagkauayan, Quezon.

When SRI-Pilipinas received some eight hundred thousand pesos from the Department of Agriculture to promote SRI, we finally got some resources to do a nationwide training program. With this modest amount we have been able to do a one-day SRI training in around 48 provinces so far. We hope to reach 50 provinces before the fund is used up.

Aga’s example shows our approach in promoting SRI. In November 2006, I had been interviewed SRI in a DZMM radio program for farmers, which airs Saturdays and Sundays, 4:30-6:00 am. I always give out my cellphone number during these interviews, so that interested farmers can contact me if they want an SRI workshop.

One of the hosts, Ka Ben Laurente, asked me on the air if I could conduct a workshop in his town in San Miguel, Bulacan. We quickly agreed on the date (Nov. 22) and Ka Ben invited interested listeners to join the workshop.

It was my wife, Flora, who went. I avoid conducting farmers’ trainings myself as much as possible, because I don’t have enough farming experience. I rely for farming expertise on Flora, who spent her childhood and growing up years in her father’s homestead in Tagkauayan, Quezon. Around 50 people came, including some local officials and agriculture technicians.

As usual, many were skeptical. In my own experience, out of every ten in the audience, 8 or 9 would raise all kinds of problems why the method won’t work. They can’t control the water, they can’t control the snails, the can’t control the weeds, etc. But usually, one or two would be enthusiastic about trying it. They would pester you with detailed questions, buy the primer or the training CD and want to start the trial immediately. These are the farmers we are looking for, the innovators, who will go out of their way to try a new method and see if it works. We have gone at great lengths to put into our primer every detail that farmers may need to improve their chances of succeeding in their first trial.

Aga Milagroso was one of those who had attended Flora’s workshop, and one of those who were truly curious and interested. He brought home a copy of the primer, tried SRI on his farm, and got encouraging results. He tried again the next season, drawing into the trial other members of the crop growers’ association of which he was president. Aga wanted to learn more and contacted SRI-Pilipinas. So we sent another trainor, Jun Garde, to teach his group other organic methods, like the use of indigenous microorganisms (IMO), bokasi (fermented rice bran), carbonized rice hull, and so on.

Today, barely two years after he first heard about SRI in a radio program, Aga is himself an increasingly active SRI trainor.

Passed on from one farmer to another, heard on an early morning radio program, read on a photocopied primer, seen from a training video that has itself passed from hand to hand. This is how SRI is spreading itself among Filipino farmers, throughout the Philippines.

We already have at least one SRI farmer in most rice-producing provinces, at the modest cost of some eight hundred thousand pesos. Our next goal is an SRI farmer-trainor in every rice-producing town. I am hopeful the Department of Agriculture will also support this phase of our efforts.

System of Rice Intensification (SRI)

A new method of growing rice is now spreading in many rice-producing countries. It is called the System of Rice Intensification (SRI). The method was initially developed in Madagascar by a Jesuit agriculturist, Fr. Henri de Laulanie and continues to be refined by thousands of researchers and farmers all over the world.

In the Philippines, the promotion of SRI is being undertaken by SRI-Pilipinas, a consorium of NGOs which I coordinate. We have already conducted one-day trainings in at least 47 provinces in the Philippines. Now, we want to do trainings in every rice-producing municipality in the country. We need at least P25,000 (around $500) per municipality, and hope to gather donations from Filipinos abroad who may want to sponsor a training in their municipality. If you are interested in donating, please contact me privately (rverzola@gn.apc.org).

SRI involves a few simple but major changes in farmers’ methods. Not expensive, but challenging because it involves a major change in mindset.

  • Farmers are used to transplanting 3-week old rice seedlings or older. Under SRI, 8- to 12-day old seedlings are transplanted.
  • Farmers are used to flooding their fields. Under SRI, anything longer than a 3-day flooding is avoided. Wetting the soil, or intermittent flooding and drying, is instead encouraged.
  • Farmers are used to planting distances of 15 cm or closer. Under SRI, planting distances start at 25 cm and may even be greater.
  • Farmers are used to planting a bunch of seedlings per hill. Under SRI, one seedling per hill is encouraged. At most two is allowed.
  • Farmers are used to chemical fertilizers. Under SRI, the use of organic matter is encouraged.
  • Farmers are used to herbicides. Under SRI, a mechanical weeder is used instead, not only to control weeds but also to aerate the soil.

These simple changes in practices result in a very different kind (“phenotype” is the technical term) of rice plant. The plants produce much more tillers — 20 upwards, instead of the usual 5-10 tillers per plant. The tillers produce the grain, and the more tillers, the more grain, the greater the harvest. The loss of yield from wider spacing is more than offset by the bigger gain in yield from the greater number of tillers and the greater number of grains per tiller.

For details, please download this file: System of Rice Intensification: Practices and Results in the Philippines.

The benefits are many. The increase in yield, coupled with reduced cost, means greater income for the farmer. The health benefits should not be underestimated. Agricultural chemicals poison the soil, the food that comes from it, the drinking water and the surrounding fields. The environmental benefits are also considerable. Poisons are minimized and can be avoided altogether, giving common farm organisms (like mudfish, snails, crabs, frogs, etc.) a chance to return to the farm. Less flooding means less anaerobic decomposition of organic matter, which means less methane generation and therefore less greenhouse gases. Methane is actually worse than carbon dioxide in its greenhouse effect.

A mindset change among our farmers is bound to generate many positive consequences down the road. To accomplish this, we need a lot of support.