Rice farmers found help from an unlikely ally: ducks

In times of need, turn to your friends – including the feathered kind.

Farming is life for most communities in the CARAGA region, and rice is the crop of choice. Nine out of every 10 farmers in this northeastern province of Mindanao are engaged in rice planting, with thousands heavily relying on this harvest as their primary source of income.

This comes with risks that local farmers are all too familiar with. Traditional farming is plagued by persistent setbacks, from the high cost of chemical fertilizers and pesticides to the possibility of typhoons devastating entire plantations. These challenges pressured communities to find ways to protect their livelihood and sustain their prized crops.

With dwindling earnings, they sought a solution for their threatened livelihood. But who would’ve thought the key would be ducks?

The CARAGA region was chosen by the Philippine Agrarian Reform Foundation for National Development (PARFUND) as the location for their alternative farming program, the Integrated Rice-Duck Farming System (IRDFS) in 2012.

PARFUND’s innovative farming method was simple and effective. It trained local farmers on how to integrate ducks in the rice fields. This system allows ducks to roam around hectares of rice fields and in the process, paddle the soil to stimulate the growth of more grains.

More importantly, ducks greatly reduced the devastating impact of pests by eating insects and weeds, including the kuhol or snail – the notorious destroyer of rice plants, and the cause of Schistosomiasis disease, also known as snail fever. Their manure also fertilizes the soil, minimizing the need to spend for chemical fertilizers and additional labor.

CARAGA farmers increased their incomes rise through this new farming method with PARFUND providing new markets for their harvested organic rice. Earnings for each hectare grew to P 20, 000 to P 30, 000 from P 11,000 – P 15,000. It also gave a new source of revenue by selling duck meat and balut or fertilized duck eggs, adding P 500 in earnings per day.

PARFUND introduced the IRFDS method to more than 100 farmers, and has since convinced the local government unit to adopt this improved farming system and apply it to other communities in the region.