Saturday, July 5, 2008

FilAm Transnational Social Enterprise Example

There’s an article in the Inquirer today about an NGO called the Revitalized Indigenous Cordilleran Entrepreneurs, Inc. (RICE) who led the shipment of heirloom rice to the US.

Highland rice varieties target global markets

By Delmar Cariño
Northern Luzon Bureau

Posted date: January 19, 2008

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet -- More indigenous rice varieties of the Cordillera are expected to be shipped abroad this year to meet the growing demand for traditional and native staples in the international market.

The Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project (CHRP), which brought Kalinga’s unoy and Ifugao’s tinawon rice varieties to the United States two years ago, plans to export seven highland rice varieties from Mountain Province.

The Department of Agriculture and the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) in the Cordillera are ecstatic that the CHRP has considered the production of the following heirloom types from Mountain Province: senyora red, senyora white, kintoman, siniola, ginulot or unkil, korel and ghumlike.

These varieties grow in the rice fields of Besao, Sagada, Bontoc, Bauko, Natonin and Sadanga towns.

A nongovernment organization that has led the shipment of heirloom rice to the United States, the Revitalized Indigenous Cordilleran Entrepreneurs Inc. (RICE), encouraged the cultivation of the seven varieties after these were certified to have passed product standards required for export. Click here to read article

Under this scheme, farmers get to sell a 50 kg sack of rice at P2,500 which is better than P1,200 per sack for hybrid rice. Yield per hectare for heirloom rice is 50-60% of the average 80 cavans per hectare for hybrid rice, though. That about offsets the price difference per kilo. If you correct for the savings because of less expense for chemical fertilizers and pesticides, then maybe there is a better profit margin.

RICE exported 8.9 MT of heirloom rice in 2006 and 17 MT as of October 2007. Let’s see, 17 MT is 1,000 kilos per metric ton, means 17,000 kilos of rice or 340 sacks, hmmm…. that’s a few truckloads, not as voluminous as I imagined. But 340 sacks x P2,500 is P850,000 of gross income for the farmers. Some gains were, 1) it protected the watershed; 2) it preserved traditional farming techniques.

RICE collaborated with Montana-based Eight Wonder Inc., which served as its marketing arm. I wonder if Eight Wonder Inc. is a Filipino-owned enterprise, or maybe even a subsidiary or affiliate of RICE. It might be.

Kudos to RICE NGO. I think more NGOs should be looking at transnational collaboration and social entrepreneurship as a strategy for solving problems. It’s scaleable and market-driven. It’s not perfect, but it’s a welcome innovation. Now if only we could start trading rice on eBay.

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