Aster De Alban
On March 2007, organic rice farmer Ofelia Dela Cruz saw her youngest child graduate from college. This was her sixth trip to the stage as one of the proud parents.
Nay Ofelia recounts how hard it was to support all of her seven children with the family’s meager income. Both she and her husband are rice farmers in Brgy. Salngan, Passi, Iloilo. It was difficult enough to put food on their table, but they were steadfast in their goal to send all of their children to school. Farming is their life and no matter how noble they consider this livelihood, they were determined to give their children a college degree.
“Debts were piling up. Our organic rice produce would only get us at the most 7 pesos per kilo from traders. They would then sell this for about 30 pesos per kilo in the market. It can be very frustrating. But that is how it is. We cannot really ask for a higher price because they might not buy our product in the end, she said in Filipino.
In a study conducted by the Philippine Development Assistance Program (PDAP) it was mentioned that there has been a growing demand for chemical-free products like muscovado and organic rice. Considering this, one would think that organic farmers will reap in bigger benefits. Nay Ofelia said that they do not really see any difference in the farm level. Assistance usually comes from civil society organizations like the Center for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (CARRD).
CARRD has an ongoing organic rice production project with the Salngan Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Multi-Purpose Cooperative (SARBMPC) of which, Nay Ofelia is a member. This project provided SARBMPC with their own solar dryer. A rice mill exclusively for organic rice is set to be built this month. This will be a big help in getting certification for their organic rice since requirements are very strict.
With all these, Nay Ofelia hopes that they will eventually get a better price. A higher income would mean her fellow rice farmers will afford a better standard of living and more of their children finishing college.