4 Palayamanan Principles That Can Benefit Filipino Rice Farmers
As the song goes—planting rice is never fun. The life of a rice farmer is difficult enough even when they are not facing financial insecurity, a situation that is all too common among tenant farmers, small landholders, and laborers involved in rice cultivation in the Philippines. Indeed, the Palayamanan system was developed by the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) to help Filipino rice farmers break the cruel cycle of feast and famine that often comes with the coming and going of harvest seasons.
While not all rice farms may be able to follow this system to the letter, several principles in Palayamanan could be applied at typical rice farms that could help alleviate common issues.
What Is Palayamanan?
The word “Palayamanan” is derived from the Tagalog words for palayan (rice field) and kayamanan (wealth). This hints at the aims of the system, which is to bring wealth and self-sufficiency to ordinary rice farmers and other agricultural workers. At its core, Palaymanan is a localized system designed to reduce the risks associated with rice farming.
The system is intended to address most of the long and short-term problems associated with rice farming. Notably, many rice farms can only derive an income each cropping season, of which there are 2 to 3 in most areas. Whatever income is made from each harvest has to suffice for the rest of the year. When crops fail or when farmgate prices drop, rice farm workers can be especially vulnerable to a wide range of poverty-related problems, from malnutrition to excessive debt.
Palayaman practices are intended to not only help farmers earn an income outside of harvest season. They are also meant to conserve farm inputs and boost rice production. Practices range from livestock raising and aquaculture to crop rotation and simple process automation. These practices are meant to work for a typical one-hectare rice farm, supporting a homestead family of six or three full-time farmworkers.
What Ideas Can Local Rice Farmers Use?
You can read more about implementing Palayamanan on the Pinoy Rice Knowledge Bank. However, it’s not necessary to go all-in on Palayamanan to get its benefits. Below are some of the more specific ideas from Palayamanan that local rice farmers can use immediately.
The Palayamanan system is meant to meet the nutritional requirements of homesteaders and laborers. Vegetable gardens are a central feature of the system, not only providing much-needed nutrition for the people on the farm but also giving an alternate and steady source of income.
Aside from vegetable farms, the system also encourages aquaculture and animal husbandry, as rice farms are typically able to support these activities at some level.
Flooded fields and reservoirs can be used for tilapia aquaculture, which could be used to meet nutritional requirements or sold for an income outside of harvest season. Rice stalks and bran could be used to feed animals and the resulting animal waste could be used as fertilizer.
Additionally, the system encourages owning a means to process and mill rice. This will help prevent the homestead from being dependent on outside millers for its own rice consumption and may help improve incomes in hard times.
Related to the previous principle, the Palayamanan system also encourages farmers to maximize the use of available resources for maximum effect. This necessarily means that acquiring technical expertise in the use of various farm inputs is encouraged to prevent waste and reduce the cost of rice production.
Process automation and simplification are other things encouraged by Palayamanan. For instance, automatic feeding and watering solutions are encouraged for livestock and crops. Related to this, biocontrol systems are favored in pest management as this requires minimal intervention from farmers.
This is all because saving labor allows the homesteaders or farmworkers to produce even more without succumbing to unnecessary fatigue. This keeps farms productive, improves the quality of life for farm workers, and may help reduce healthcare costs in the long term.
The most obvious quality of a farm following Palayamanan is the diversity of crops and livestock. However, this is done for a specific reason: risk reduction. The profitability of rice farming operations that only produce rice is extremely sensitive to the farmgate price of palay and the global price of milled rice. Additionally, mono-crop production is vulnerable to such factors as flash floods, typhoons, diseases, and unexpected pest invasions.
Even without implementing all of the recommended Palayamanan practices, taking steps towards diversification can help farms become more resilient to various factors that can affect their crop’s value. This makes most of the practices in Palayamanan worth considering, given the instability of farmgate prices for palay.
Farming should not only look at the next cropping season but all the potential crops that will need to be cultivated in the future. Unfortunately, many widely practiced agricultural methods have destroyed water tables, created a negative environmental impact, and have left farm soil damaged and dependent on synthetic fertilizer.
With so many local farms facing existential threats due to shrinking water tables and reduced soil quality, Palayamanan’s focus on sustainable farming practices is appealing to farmers interested in maintaining long-term profitability.
Is Palayamanan the Answer?
While not every farm can shift to Palayamanan, the basic ideas behind the system can be very beneficial for many rice farms throughout the country. The specific risk reduction benefits of Palayamanan are particularly compelling given the stresses local rice farmers face from both market and environmental forces.