Like the rest of Bicol region, Camarines Sur suffered extensive damage when Typhoon Rolly (international name: Goni) barreled across the Philippines November last year.
The region was still reeling from the effects of Typhoon Quinta (Molave) a week before and after Typhoon Rolly was done, almost P340 million worth of high-value crops were damaged in Albay, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, and Catanduanes.
The typhoon came at the worst possible time – rice harvest season.
To help the farmers recover, the Typhoon Rolly Recovery Program supported by Oxfam and implemented by the Rice Watch Action Network, Inc. (R1) from November 2020 to April 2021 provided those in the municipalities of Milaor, Canaman, Magarao and Camaligan in Camarines Sur with locally-sourced rice seeds, solar bubble dryers, organic soil enhancer, and vegetable seedlings.
Traditionally, farmers dried their crops under the sun but with the continued rainfall and flooding, it was impossible to do this. To begin with, the sun-drying process was not the most efficient since rice grain is continuously lost to spillage and animals. It was also time-consuming with the farmers having to collect and store the grains at night or when it rains.
To address the immediate problem of drying the crops, R1 provided four Solar Bubble Dryers (SBD) developed by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the Hohenheim University in Germany and GrainPro.
R1 explained that the drying tunnel collects heat from the sun through the tunnel’s transparent top. Because the dryer uses the power of the sun, it does not produce carbon emissions. Human-driven carbon emissions are major contributors to global warming, and in turn climate change, which has been linked to extreme weather events.
The trapped hot air and the electric-powered blower enables faster drying.
“The drying tunnel also provides a buffer for the temperature and protects the grains from overheating, which is common during sun-drying at noon,” the report said.
R1 said that while the blower accessory is electric-powered it can be made solar-powered too and has very low operating cost. However, for Camarines Sur and other areas with almost no dry season, the electric blower is useful in keeping the grains dry even during downcast weather.
The organization said that in addition to protecting the grains from animals, insects, contamination and rain, the dryer also prevents losses due to spillage or cars running over the grains, which are traditionally spread to dry on roads.
Feedback from the farmers was very positive.
The dryer can be easily and safely set-up by one or two persons, even the elderly. Previous surveys showed that the average Filipino farmer is in his or her 50s.
The easy set-up enables quick preparation before a typhoon approaches or frees up time so farmers can attend to household chores.
To address the other problems faced by farmers affected by Typhoon Rolly, R1 also gave out organically-produced rice seeds from the farmers of Irosin and Sta. Magdalena, Sorsogon, who were part of a Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation project.
“The seeds provided were also traditional and inbred varieties, which can be re-used. Farmers will be able to have their own seeds,” which can then be stored and shared by the community, R1 said.
Besides the seeds, the recovery project also involved the distribution of organic soil enhancer or bokashi.
With the farms still flooded after the typhoon, R1 provided the farmers vegetable seedlings that could be harvested in a month’s time.
Also established were two hydroponics vegetable seedling nurseries, which allow growing vegetables in a shorter period of time within a limited space.
“Those who received assistance are already harvesting some of the vegetable seedlings distributed such as eggplant, tomato, pepper, squash, bottle gourd, and cucumber,” R1 said, adding that the vegetables were for household use or were sold within the community.
“As of this writing, the rice seeds provided to farmers are at the reproductive stage,” R1 said in its report. “They (farmers) are thankful that the distribution of the rice seeds and organic fertilizer came at just the right time since they are already preparing their rice fields.”
With the communities already educated on the benefits of organic farming, hydroponics and solar dryers, the Camarines Sur’s farmers are looking forward to further upgrading their tools with hoes, sprinklers, and knapsack sprayers.