Slow Food Contributes to the Revaluation of Filipino Rice by Supporting the Unoy Rice Varieties of Pasil

31 Jan 2024 | English

The Presidium is crucial to ensuring food security and preserving indigenous agricultural heritage

Slow Food has created its first Presidium in the Philippines to support the Unoy Rice Varieties of Pasil. These 18 different aromatic native varieties of rice are cultivated in the Pasil River Valley, located in Kalinga province in the country’s northern Cordillera region, a mountainous area on the island of Luzon with altitudes between 700 and 2,000 meters above sea level. The Kalinga are an indigenous people whose ancestral domain lies in the Cordillera mountains, and in their local language, „Unoy“ refers to rice varieties that grow during the dry season.

The Pasil River makes this area particularly suited to growing crops like rice and vegetables. Safeguarding the local wealth of biodiversity is an important component of the Presidium, whose production protocol bans the use of synthetic pesticides and herbicides.

The Unoy Rice Varieties of Pasil are mostly red in color but can also be white or purple; some are non-glutinous (flaky), such as Chong-ak, while others, such as Chaykot, are glutinous (sticky). Both of these varieties are already included in Slow Food’s Ark of Taste along with 95 other food products from the Philippines. While the Ark of Taste is simply a catalog of varieties, breeds and foods at risk of extinction, creating a Slow Food Presidium is the next step, an operational phase in which local communities are supported in taking concrete action to protect a traditional product that is struggling to survive.

This Presidium is led by Indigenous farmers from eight out of the 14 barangays in Pasil municipality (Cagaluan, Ableg, Dalupa, Balinciagao Sur, Balinciagao Norte, Magsilay, Malucsad, Pugong, Guinaang, Galdang, Bagtayan, Dangtalan, Balatoc and Colayo), meaning that half of the municipality is involved. The project has obtained the support of the local and traditional authorities, at both the barangay and municipality level.

Interventions in the past here have led to the introduction of external rice varieties. These were meant to be higher yielding and some could be grown twice a year. But they are not suited to these mountainous areas, where there is less rain, plus external inputs like artificial fertilizers are needed to obtain good yields. The result has been the loss of many of the climate-resilient Unoy (dry season) rice varieties, severely undermining the communities’ food security. When they lose these rice varieties, the people of Pasil are also losing their identity and traditional knowledge.

In 2019, representatives from the local Indigenous communities created a Slow Food Community aimed at protecting and promoting their traditional food heritage, including the traditional rice varieties. In 2023, 135 farmers (including 26 young women and two young men as well as 97 other women and 10 other men) grew interested in starting a Slow Food Presidium to protect their heirloom rice varieties.

Lam-en Gonnay, the Slow Food Presidium coordinator, tells us more: “Years ago, the introduction of high-yielding and fast-growing rice varieties pushed by the government during the Green Revolution resulted in the decline of indigenous varieties. These are now being recognized for their resilience to drought and their cultural significance to the Indigenous people of Pasil. The Presidium is part of the revival of Unoy rice varieties, increasing their visibility. This revival is crucial to ensuring food security and preserving Pasil’s rich agricultural heritage. Furthermore, the international recognition the Presidium brings has highly motivated producers. In meetings and exchanges producers have demonstrated their willingness to innovate and create productive diversification and thus alternative incomes by adding value to the value chain. The rice has the potential to increase community livelihoods once production has increased. A plan has been made to increase the production of traditional Unoy varieties by 10% and to sell the surplus on the local and national market. Pest, soil and water management plans will also be put in place.“

The establishment of the Unoy Rice Varieties of Pasil Presidium has been achieved through the dedicated activism of the local Slow Food Indigenous Peoples’ Network and the invaluable support of IFAD (the International Fund for Agricultural Development). 

For more information:
The Slow Food Presidium project supports quality products at risk of disappearing, protects unique territories and ecosystems, promotes traditional processing methods and safeguards indigenous species and local plant varieties. Today, over 14,000 producers are involved in 673 Presidia around the world.
Slow Food is an international network of local communities founded in 1989 to prevent the disappearance of local culinary cultures and traditions, and to halt the spread of fast-food culture. Since then, Slow Food has grown into a global movement involving millions of people in 160 countries, working to ensure that everyone has access to good, healthy and fair food. Slow Food is the coordinating organization responsible for leading the movement as a whole.
Slow Food International Press Office
Paola Nano – [email protected] (+39) 329 8321285
Alessia Pautasso – [email protected] (+39) 342 8641029

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