The National Rice Awareness Month in the Philippines is celebrated yearly during the month of November in support of Filipino rice farmers and their efforts to produce the most important staple crop in the country.

Undertaken jointly by the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Philippine Rice Research Institute, the celebration also hopes to instill into the minds of every Filipino to value every grain of rice they consume. Filipino farmers play a big role in keeping our country’s production of rice not only robust, but also sustainable for the benefit of every Filipino and the country as a whole.

To celebrate local farmers and enable them to keep growing rice for years to come, here are some ways we can show them support during the celebration of National Rice Awareness month and even beyond.

Buy local rice

The value of patronizing your own remains to be the best way to keep local industries alive and thriving. In this case, the rice production sub-sector under the Agriculture sector. Buying local products is also one of the best ways to support both the local and national economy as it aims to bounce back amidst the pandemic. It is also a way for Filipinos to keep their nationalistic fervor alive, knowing that every kilo of rice they buy goes a long way for a farmer to keep planting rice and offer enough supply for a nation who consumes rice almost every meal time.

Farmer’s Market is still the best

Buying at a farmer’s market means keeping farmers’ livelihood sustainable by being a market for their produce, and guaranteed income to further encourage and enable them to keep planting rice. 

PLDT and wireless unit Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart), for its part, came up with #BuyLocal, a program under its FarmSmart advocacy that aims to help support local farmers by providing them access to sure and direct markets where the farmers’  produce are sold at fair and competitive prices so they can earn more for their families. Smart also came up with promotional bundle deals with discount codes and rice donation campaigns to encourage more consumers and groups to support the program.

Invest in agriculture

One of the key challenges faced by Filipino rice farmers is the lack of capital as rice farming is not only labor intensive but capital intensive as well. Since many of them do not have enough funds for farming inputs, many rice farmers are forced to borrow money from informal lenders who charge them exorbitant interest rates that can go as high as 20% per month, or from scrupulous traders who force them to sell their produce at a low price. Many farmers are left with no choice but to sell at a huge loss and borrow again just to pay off debts.  

To help address this, Smart partnered with Cropital, a globally recognized social agri-enterprise that provides local farmers access to affordable and scalable financing through crowdfunding. When you buy rice from Smart’s adopted farming communities, you can help add up to Php100 to a farmers’ sustainability fund. This fund is provided as low-interest loans to farmers, who will use it to buy farming inputs for their next cropping cycle. Once they have paid back the loans, the fund will then be used to support another batch of farmers. 

Although the Philippines has grown leaps and bounds on its way to becoming an industrialized nation, the agriculture sector remains alive as more farmers, particularly in the countryside, depend on farming/agriculture as their main source of livelihood. 

Consider involving the sector in your community efforts

Being the staple crop in the country, rice is always a need in almost every Filipino home. #BuyLocal is also designed to help community-based initiatives such as the popular Community Pantry. Benefactors of the community pantries from anywhere can buy via #BuyLocal; they not only help provide farmers another steady market but also help the pantries provide food for the people in poverty-stricken areas.

Buying through #BuyLocal also helps in disaster relief anywhere in the country, especially now that our kababayans up north were severely affected by Typhoon Maring that caused severe damage to crops and properties. The program’s “Buy One, Give One” donates a sack of ordinary white rice for every purchase of a sack of premium white rice, to aid in relief efforts in calamity-stricken and indigent families, plus P200 from the sales goes to farmers’ sustainability fund.

Buy rice and other produce straight from farmers, whether for your family’s consumption or for the benefit of communities in need. Farmers are business partners and long-term suppliers or allies in economic recovery, nation building and nutrition promotion especially when farm-to-table approach is supported.

Support local rice farmers and help uplift their livelihood. Buy their rice through Cropital’s website and input smartbuylocal to get a discount. Interested individuals or groups who wish to conduct their citizenship efforts through the program may send an email at farmsmart@smart.com.ph.