By: Larry Villanueva
A few years back, I attended the wedding rehearsal dinner of my niece who was getting married. During the night, relatives from both families regaled the soon-to-be married couple with advice. We got quite a few laughs from the husbands who said that there is one essential rule in a happy marriage: In whatever argument or discussion, always say yes to your wife.
How does this fit in to my ongoing articles about agriculture? Read on, faithful reader.
I met other SRI farmers during my first visit to the Serrano farm in Samal, Bataan. Most of them were members of the Samaleño Organiko Producers Cooperative and they had stories to tell about planting rice using SRI. Among them, I met three women who are taking the lead in planting rice using SRI. Divina Cana, Elizabeth Lasarte and Loida Antonio are three women farmers who have adopted SRI and are happy with the results in their respective farms.
According to them, their husbands were reluctant to use SRI but they put their foot down and insisted that they plant using SRI. All three women say they have spent less money on productions costs and they have observed other benefits as well like the plant’s improved weather resilience. It is quite funny to listen to each of them tell of how their husbands were initially reluctant to adopt something different like SRI but they insisted and their better halves had no choice but to say yes.
Divina said that during their land preparation and in the first week after planting, her husband was so worried about the harvest because SRI was so different from the way he planted rice but after they first used the rotary weeder, the plants began to grow healthily and he then stopped worrying.
Elizabeth said that she found the SRI approach to be very flexible but she pointed out that the type of plant variety is very important. She lamented that she used a plant variety that was susceptible to the tungro virus – a plant virus that stunts the growth and reduces the tillers of the rice plant – so she is going to use a native variety that is more resistant to pests and diseases.
In Loida’s case, she observed that the land preparation stage is the most important to her. She said that it is really labor intensive in the beginning but it is worth it because the plants grow really well.
A common thread of their tales were the scepticism and (a little) ridicule from farmers who plant using conventional methods. These farmers ate their words when they saw the positive results of growing rice using SRI.
Unfortunately, all three women and the other farmers in the Bataan area were affected by Typhoon Santi which hit the last October 2013, more than midway into their cropping season. All of them agree that they could have harvested more if not for the typhoon and yet, the typhoon demonstrated another positive effect of SRI.
All three women attest to the resilience of the SRI-rice plant against the effects of the typhoon. Other farmers had to re-plant because of the devastation to their fields but they, on the other hand, were still able to harvest. They saw for themselves that the roots of the SRI-rice were stronger and had a firmer grip on the ground than conventionally planted rice.
The women were eager to see the effects of SRI-planted rice during the dry season. The lessons they learned from the first SRI planting season will be tested with the upcoming harsher and drier conditions.
One has to admire women for their ability to be more open-minded in accepting change, especially when change is beneficial. A lot of development programs are initially geared towards women, like livelihood, agriculture and fishery programs. A case can be made for promoting SRI to women farmers.
I think promoting the obvious economic and potential climatic merits of SRI can convince women farmers to shift from the conventional rice farming system wherein production costs are rising and their farms ecosystems are degrading. We need more women like Divina, Elizabeth and Loida to get their husbands to adopt SRI. When the day comes that all farmers in the country plant using SRI, most of them may be husbands who said yes to their wives.
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