FAO extends livelihood support to Ifugao farmers affected by COVID-19

MANILA – The Ifugao province is known as the home of the world famous Philippines Rice Terraces, which also highlights the important role of agriculture in the Ifugao people’s livelihoods. The rice terraces is the only recognized Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems of FAO in the Philippines and is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Interestingly, the rice terraces are primarily maintained by Indigenous Peoples (IPs), and in Hungduan the majority of these IP caretakers belong to the Tuwali tribe whose main product is the heirloom minaangan rice.

As with the rest of the country, the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic severely affected Hungduan’s farmers and food producers, limiting their market opportunities and movements and, consequently, their incomes.

To help offset the socioeconomic impacts induced by the pandemic on farmers in Hungduan, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has provided a US$10,000 grant to select barangays in the municipality. Hungduan was selected as a recipient of the grant, provided through the FAO TeleFood Programme, as an extension of the aid it was provided through FAO’s “Dynamic Conservation and Sustainable Use of Agrobiodiversity in Traditional Agroecosystems of the Philippines” (ABD Project), which is being implemented in partnership with the Department of Agriculture – Bureau of Agricultural Research (DA-BAR). The project helps strengthen the capacities of Hungduan farmers and their families in preparing food products made from local agrobiodiversity, including rice cookies, ginger candy, and banana chips.

The grant, which will run for one year, will expand the ABD Project’s coverage – adding three more barangays as well as cater to five of the six pilot barangays. It will also provide farmer processors tools, equipment, and capacity building to enable them to earn incomes even during the pandemic. The TeleFood project will also fund the construction of processing facilities in its focus barangays, which will be complemented by counterpart support from local government units and the communities that will provide construction labor costs.

“During this pandemic, people in Hungduan have been asking assistance from the LGU, which we provided in the form of relief assistance. It is good that FAO, along with other government line agencies, are coming up with programs that can provide assistance to farmers, especially for women, that have the potential to have long-lasting impact on their livelihood,” says Hungduan Mayor Casan Dumulag.

“While the grant is small, it can go a long way if we implement this properly,” added Jonathan Wacoy, Municipal Agricultural Officer of Hungduan. “It is not enough that we try to develop the products and then stop when the project assistance ends. It is important for us to ensure that production especially planting of raw materials is sustained and the processing is sustained. This way, we can grow from small processors to enterprises that would be known for producing healthy products sourced from our local agro-biodiversity crops.”

Both the ABD and the Telefood Projects are set to conclude in 2021.