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Economics of Rice Duck

Economics of agriculture in the Philippines should begin with the micro economics of the small farmer, still a majority here. Debt is a major reason that the small farmer ends up poor. He borrows money for seed, fertilizer, pesticides and for food toward the end of the season when his family runs out of stored rice from the harvest.

Here is the micro case for integrated rice duck: The farmer is supplied with ducklings and fencing. Planting the rice he integrates the ducklings into the fenced paddy. The ducklings eat the eggs and larvae and insects and begin converting them into fertilizer ala duck crap. The farmer does not need to buy fertilizer or insecticide so does not go into debt. As the season advances, stored food from harvest runs low and the ducks grow, the farmer eats the males, therefore avoiding debt. At about four months (with long duration rice, recommended) the ducks are removed from the rice and either the remaining males sold if the farmer is keeping females for eggs and ducklings or all ducks sold if not. They sell for about 120 pesos at that age. The price of ducklings is about 30 pesos. The farmer should make enough to pay for next season seed and ducklings and enters the new season without debt. His production of rice is usually increased from ten percent (first season) to thirty percent due to the stimulation of tillering, fertilization and the cultivation of the ducks.

Here is the macro case for rice duck: Eliminating the debt and increasing productivity will make the farmer more secure and keep him from having to sell his property and move to the city, thereby slowing and finally reversing the migration of small farmers to the city. The increase in productivity and additional small farmers taking up rice production will provide long term food security for the Philippines, ending the need to subsidize and/or import rice.

What is needed to make this happen? Small farmers must first learn that ducks will not damage the rice by observing successful integrated rice duck farming. This can be done using demonstration farms run by the church, government or educational institutions such as MINSCAT or VISCA (both of which are planning to provide such demonstration/field trials). Agriculture extension workers can make the method and resources such as ducklings, azolla and fencing available to individual small farmers from storage/cultivation at demo farms in the case of government/educational institutions. In the case of the church, parish priests and parish yards can become extension agents and demonstrate integrated rice duck at the churchyard in rice areas as is planned by Father Betong in Calapan. As small farmers adopt the method and materials, they should be organized into cooperatives so that they can share resources and market surplus efficiently. Examples of successful cooperatives can be found in Mindanao with the Catholic Relief Services and in Christian communities like those of Father Brian Gore and the Columbans on Negros. In addition to the resources for integrated rice duck farming and the marketing of surplus product (rice, duck, eggs and vegetables), these cooperatives should be provided with power, water, roads and computer centers as well as the indispensable (in the Philippines) cell phone signal. They should also be served by health care, possibly something like Barefoot Doctors http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barefoot_doctor or a clinic.

Lastly, the next generation of small farmers must be encouraged and nurtured. To do this both the culture and the subculture of young Filipinos must be understood and used. One priest working in a rice growing area found that when he taught the children and grandchildren of small farmers to use the IRRI Rice Knowledge site to solve rice problems that he both helped the farmers solve the problems and involved children in small farming. To do this a computer center should e learning modules to engage the children directly in the issues and answers of integrated rice duck farming and other natural systems. Ideally a "video game" would be developed, say "Mighty Ducks" or "Power of Ducks"? The Quakers made on on peacemaking, has anyone made one on good farming methods?

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