Mini hydrotiller for Banaue rice farmers

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Raised by 29 people in 55 months
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Last March, to better understand rice farmer needs and daily lives, members of the International Rice Research Institute's (IRRI) Rice: Research to Production course visited the 2,000-year-old Banaue Rice Terraces, one of the Philippine's National Cultural Treasures, and referred in the Philippines as the "eight wonder of the world".          

Course participants--graduate students and young scientists from across the globe--met with a local farmers group, members of the Ifugao tribe, and asked them what their main constraints to rice production are.  

The farmers' answer: "Our hydrotiller is broken."

In order to help this group of farmers regain access to mechanized farm equipment, the alumnae of the Rice: Research to Production (R2P) course are raising funds to donate to this farmer group a new mini hydrotiller--ideal for plowing the narrow rice paddies fields of the mountainous Banaue terraces.  

This mini hydrotiller (pictured above) was designed by PhilRice, the Philippines Rice Research Institute, as a small but powerful tractor to till flooded rice paddy soil.  It will help these rice farmers with the back-breaking work of tilling their fields, traditionally plowed with a water buffalo (carabao), or in the mountainous rice terraces by hand with a shovel, as the water buffalo cannot climb the steep slopes. (See a similar mini hydrotiller in action here). 

In these modern times the Banaue rice terrace farmers face many threats to their traditional culture and way of life: They don't eat their own heirloom rice varieties, like the pink-tinted, annual tinawon crop, but sell it to the urban market for a profit and eat cheaper rice varieties grown elsewhere in the Philippines. Giant earthworms have invaded, tunnelling through the rice paddies and making them susceptible to landslides.  And the low profitability and difficult labor of rice farming gives little incentive for the local citizens to continue growing rice as their ancestors have done, leaving many to abandon their paddies for more lucrative jobs and urban living.  

If the funds are raised in time, the 2014 R2P course participants will deliver and present the new mini hydrotiller to the farmers group in Banaue at the end of May 2014.  Otherwise, the tiller will be presented to the farmers following the course.

The tractor dispersal is the response of Rice: Research to Production trainees and organizers to help meet the needs of farmers toward improve rice production in the terraces by moving away from manual tillage to mechanized cultivation. As the tiller will be presented to a group of farmers, similar to a cooperative, many farmers and their families will be able to benefit from the shared use of the hydrotiller.

On hearing about this campaign, Omer Badi, a young agricultural engineer from Sudan and one of the original 2013 course participants who interviewed the farmers said: "I'm proud that this institute (IRRI) keeps playing an important role to improve farmers life. For the Banaue farmers community I think it is very important to create some kind of order to modernize agricultural activities and keep the soul of history as a heritage at the same time." 

Help us to help Banaue farmers continue planting rice and save the livelihood and integrity of the Banaue Rice Terraces for generations to come!
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I received a comment on whether the tiller was available on the market and am responding to that.

The mini hydrotiller we purchased for donation through this campaign was designed and purchased through PhilRice. You may contact them for more details in their website here:
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And here--finally!-- are photos of the tiller in use!
1st pass tilling - note the weed height!
An almost completely-tilled terrace
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With permission, and courtesy of Eugene Castro and Ruth Laguyan, here is a copy of the Bocos Terraces Farmer Association's new terms of use for equipment!
Policies for Equipment Use - Page 1
Policies for Equipment Use - Page 2
Policies for Equipment Use - Page 3
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More questions than answers, Part II:

Here are more questions we discussed about the hydrotiller donation after returning from Banaue:

Q2. What complications might arise from our hydrotiller donation to the Bocos' farmers group?

"The nearest maintenance is done in [the town of] Solano, 2 hours away -- training is needed."
"Most probably everybody will need the tiller almost at the same time, then there may be a conflict."
"I thought Janelle's conversations about the impacts of the donation of the tiller to the Banaue farmers was extremely interesting. I previously thought that simply donating the tiller would fix so many problems; it did not occur to me that it could bring about new problems."
"The particular group [we donated to] might be partial to their own group."
"The other groups/communities may depend on donations instead of contributing by themselves."
"Politicians present, not farmers. Hopefully farmers get unbiased use -- no nepotism."
"Only three hydrotillers is not sufficient." (This farmers group only had 3 hydrotillers, one of which was broken, for over 50 members.)
"Might create social or economic stratification." "Creation of haves/have-nots by giving power (i.e. mechanization) to one group of people."
"Dependency issue - is this promoting independence or reliance on handouts?"
"Does less physical labor actually equal less work/more benefits?"
"Will the farmers accept the tiller (as they believe in traditional methods ) for the land?"

Q3. How might they be mitigated or managed, and is there ever a place for free, non-cosponsored donations of this sort in the development context?

"[If] a contract [was] written, as discussed with the farmers' group."
"Contracts and providing farmers with other resources."

What do you all think?

We're certainly following up with the Bocos farmers group to see how they're managing their new hydrotiller. Stay tuned for more....
A terraced landscape in Banaue
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$1,485 of $1,485 goal

Raised by 29 people in 55 months
No Longer Accepting Donations
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Created April 14, 2014
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Uttam Kumar
48 months ago (Offline Donation)
48 months ago
48 months ago
Ed Wilhelm
51 months ago

I was fortunate enough to get an expenses paid trip for 3 weeks in the Philippines with the course and while there saw a great need for equipment like this tiller. That's why I am donating again. Hoping we can all finish this goal up soon!

Helen Yambao
51 months ago (Offline Donation)
52 months ago
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