Northern Philippines

There were many sides to the conflict in the Philippines in the 1970s - but one thing united them all: food.

Devastating floods in 1972 had destroyed harvests, sending rice prices skyrocketing. The Marcos government response was to demand the cultivation of short-cycle rice. A new variety of seed promised to double the country’s rice yield per hectare, but the harvest was a disaster, and famine stalked the poorer peasants.

José Mejica – who had been about to join the CHIPS team in Cyprus – saw an opportunity to make a difference. With CHIPS support he established an agricultural project in Northern Luzon’s Nueva Viscaya Province.

Using a rice production contest to teach willing farmers about improved cultivation, José taught farmers the need to use certified seeds planted in straight rows, and the importance of fertilisers, pesticides and weeding.

The results were spectacular. The ten farmers in the competition harvested far more than even the government had hoped. Competition prizes were presented by the Mayor, improving relationships between the farmers and the authorities. 

The Mayor then rolled out the CHIPS-backed techniques (and contests) to 22 regions, with similarly spectacular results – they had quadrupled the national average rice-yield in just a year, and had helped to repair relations between communities and the ruling powers.

The CHIPS team went on to build three dams, two crop-drying pavements, five rural roads, rice storage sheds and educational facilities.

Just as importantly, that team was drawn from opposing sides in the wider conflict, mixed with one or two international members who lived as part of the community they sought to help, sharing the successes and setbacks.

Once the new agricultural techniques had become embedded in the community – techniques that continue to spread – CHIPS work in this part of the Philippines was done. Our attention turned to new work in the South.