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  MASIPAG: A Community Farming System (1)
Reporter   Environmental Broadcast Circle Association Inc (EBC)    Report date   2009-08-25

MASIPAG started as a movement of advocates for sustainable agriculture and later on expanded to include advocacy for small farmers\' rights and empowerment. It also promotes the technology for alternative farming, particularly the rice production.

 



A. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
MASIPAG is a Filipino acronym which stands for Magsasala at Siyentipiko Para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura or in English, it is the Farmer-Scientist Partnership for the Development of Agriculture, Incorporated. This started as a movement of advocates for sustainable agriculture and later on expanded the coverage to include advocacy for small farmers’ rights and empowerment. It also pertains to the technology being used to promote alternative farming in the community or in particular, the rice production. Rice is the staple food of the Filipino people. And rice farming is very important source of living in the rural areas. But then, rice cultivation has never brought a better life and has never uplifted the rural and even the urban poor from poverty.


The Green Revolution which started in the seventies and dragged up to the eighties were years when rice production in the Philippines was heavily dependent on foreign technology and chemical-based fertilizers and pesticides. This resulted to significant impacts on the environment, economy and culture. The intensive use of chemicals made the poor small farmers poorer because of debts. At the start of the planting season, farmers would buy seeds and inputs (fertilizers and pesticides) on credit. Unfortunately, not being able to earn enough during the harvest time, farmers would not be able to repay their debts. The next cropping cycle would again require the farmers to purchase seeds and inputs burying themselves on debts over and over again.

The promise of the government of a high yield to the farmers through what they introduced the high yielding variety (HYV) never happened. In 1980, the alarming spread of rural poverty encouraged NGOs and a group of progressive scientists to initiate consultations and discussions with small farmers in different parts of the country. These consultations were mainly held at the three island regions of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao focused on the impact of HYV on small farmers and other related issues. These and more led to the formation of MASIPAG whose objectives were to break the control of the local and multinational fertilizer and pesticide companies, multilateral rice institutes, and distribution cartels over the rice industry. Its goal is to pursue a holistic approach to development, community empowerment and the people’s control over agricultural biodiversity as a contribution in the over-all effort of improving the quality of life of the small farmers.

MASIPAG farming redeemed the rice industry in the Philippines and save it from virtual collapse brought about by the Green Revolution. This alternative agricultural research program was a response to the need of the poor farmers for appropriate seeds and technology. Earlier, there were about 4,000 traditional varieties of rice seeds collected. These were later on replaced by the HYV’s or the high yielding varieties making all farms compact with infertile soil, degraded environment, and higher incidence of pest infestation, and so on. The entry of MASIPAG which is synonymous to alternative rice program, gave an alternative route for the farmers to take.

Research on genetic conservation and improvement of the traditional rice varieties were undertaken. It led to the development of appropriate research designs and tools for farmers encapsulized in the MASIPAG trial farm.

To date, MASIPAG has brought 751 traditional rice varieties to several farming communities nationwide. The San Miguel Masipag Growers Association composed of about 23 farmer members subscribed to the trial farm and strictly adhered to the policies, systems, and procedures of MASIPAG. Technicians and experts were invited to share experiences and seeds with the farmers. First harvest proved to be beneficial. This culture of establishing “trial farms” was born, where farmers become “scientists and researchers” as they select varieties for local adaptability, study genetic traits and performance and undertake conservation and breeding. A complete cycle covers at least two years or four cropping season.

Farmers join MASIPAG through community associations or people’s organizations example farmers’ multipurpose cooperatives allied with other NGOs who are MASIPAG advocates. They are coordinated by a provincial-level MASIPAG consultative body. The level goes to the region and up to the national. There are about 500 farmer groups that form the MASIPAG network with 42 NGOs.

One of the significant effects of MASIPAG is returning control of the seeds to the farmers. The diverse variety of seeds maintained and readily available to them through their trial and demo farms is indeed an empowering act by itself. Whatever happens to the world with the advent of genetically modified food and patenting of life at least there are good seeds on hand. The farmers are becoming more important assets in developing alternative technologies which may now lead to attaining the real essence of sustainability.



Category : Development  Agriculture  Rice 



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