Black Box agreement seeks to preserve traditional rice varieties

To preserve the traditional rice varieties (TRVs) of our Indigenous Peoples for future generations, a Black Box Agreement for Ex-Situ Conservation of TRVs was signed by DA-Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), farmers, and local government units (LGUs) representatives on 4 October 2022 at DA-PhilRice, Munoz, Nueva Ecija. 

The TRVs from Hungduan and Hingyon in Ifugao and from the T'boli and Ubo tribes in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato were stored at DA-PhilRice Genebank for ex situ conservation through safety deposit for future use. 

The conservation of TRVs is part of the project, titled Dynamic conservation and sustainable use of agrobiodiversity in traditional agroecosystems of the Philippines, also known as the Agrobiodiversity project being implemented by the United Nations-Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (UN-FAO) in collaboration with DA-BAR. The project started in 2017 in three pilot municipalities of Hungduan and Hingyon in Ifugao and Lake Sebu, South Cotabato. 

The project aims to enhance, expand, and sustain the dynamic conservation practices that sustain globally significant agro-biodiversity in traditional agroecosystems in the Philippines. 

DA-BAR assistant director for Programs Joell Lales expressed his full support to the project as he sees the big potential to scale-up the initiated projects in Ifugao and South Cotabato. 

He wished to further strengthen collaboration with LGUs, other agencies and state universities and colleges for possible assistance and needed resources in order to fully commercialize technologies and explore its full potential in the communities

"Kami po sa BAR, ang PhilRice at lahat po ng ahensyang bumubuo sa Department of Agriculture at lahat ng agencies ng pamahalaan, we assure you that we are working on it for the best interest of the farmers and the farming community,” he said. 

After the signing of the Black Box agreement among DA-PhilRice executive director John de Leon, the farmer’s representatives of Hungduan, Hingyon, T’boli and Ubo and LGU representatives led by Hingyon Mayor Florencio Nalula, key officials handed over to the farmer representatives the key to the black box where samples of TRVs were deposited. 

Following the signing of agreement, a project scoping in Ifugao was conducted to determine the needs of farmers in these areas and possible assistance to ensure the sustainability of project initiatives. FAO Agrobiodiversity Project Management Coordinating Unit led by Virginia Agcopra and DA-BAR staff visited the municipalities of Hungduan and Hingyon on 5-6 October 2022. (### Maria Ruby G. Lumongsod)